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Exp Brain Res. 2009 Oct;199(1):17-25. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-1962-7. Epub 2009 Aug 8.

Execution-dependent modulation of corticospinal excitability during action observation.

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Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University, 2-579-15 Mikajima, Tokorozawa, Saitama, 359-1192, Japan.


Excitability of the corticospinal pathway increased during observation of an action. The present study investigated whether corticospinal excitability during an action observation is modulated by physical movement executed by the observers themselves. Participants alternately repeated the observation of a pinching action with the thumb and index finger and execution (30 times) of the same action. Motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation were recorded from the first dorsal interosseous muscle during observation of the action. MEP amplitude gradually increased with the number of executions of the same action. However, MEP amplitude did not change when the participants only repeated observation of the pinching action or when the participants alternately repeated observation of the pinching action and execution of the isometric abduction of the index finger. These findings suggest that enhancement of cotricospinal excitability is dependent on the execution of a particular action that is very similar to the observed action.

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