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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42742. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042742. Epub 2012 Aug 7.

The effect of chronic deafferentation on mental imagery: a case study.

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Radboud University Nijmegen, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Visual- and motor imagery rely primarily on perceptual and motor processes, respectively. In healthy controls, the type of imagery used to solve a task depends on personal preference, task instruction, and task properties. But how does the chronic loss of proprioceptive and tactile sensory inputs from the body periphery influence mental imagery? In a unique case study, we investigated the imagery capabilities of the chronically deafferented patient IW when he was performing a mental rotation task. We found that IW's motor imagery processes were impaired and that visual imagery processes were enhanced compared to controls. These results suggest that kinaesthetic afferent signals from the body periphery play a crucial role in enabling and maintaining central sensorimotor representations and hence the ability to incorporate kinaesthetic information into the imagery processes.

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