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Neuroimage. 1997 Oct;6(3):201-8.

Involvement of primary motor cortex in motor imagery: a neuromagnetic study.

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Low Temperature Laboratory, Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki, FIN-02015 HUT, Finland.


Functional brain imaging studies have indicated that several cortical and subcortical areas active during actual motor performance are also active during imagination or mental rehearsal of movements. Recent evidence shows that the primary motor cortex may also be involved in motor imagery. Using whole-scalp magnetoencephalography, we monitored spontaneous and evoked activity of the somatomotor cortex after right median nerve stimuli in seven healthy right-handed subjects while they kinesthetically imagined or actually executed continuous finger movements. Manipulatory finger movements abolished the poststimulus 20-Hz activity of the motor cortex and markedly affected the somatosensory evoked response. Imagination of manipulatory finger movements attenuated the 20-Hz activity by 27% with respect to the rest level but had no effect on the somatosensory response. Slight constant stretching of the fingers suppressed the 20-Hz activity less than motor imagery. The smallest possible, kinesthetically just perceivable finger movements resulted in slightly stronger attenuation of 20-Hz activity than motor imagery did. The effects were observed in both hemispheres but predominantly contralateral to the performing hand. The attempt to execute manipulatory finger movements under experimentally induced ischemia causing paralysis of the hand also strongly suppressed 20-Hz activity but did not affect the somatosensory evoked response. The results indicate that the primary motor cortex is involved in motor imagery. Both imaginative and executive motor tasks appear to utilize the cortical circuitry generating the somatomotor 20-Hz signal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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