Posture influences motor imagery: An fMRI study
Motor imagery is widely used to study cognitive aspects of the neural control of action. However, what is exactly simulated during motor imagery is still a matter of debate. On the one hand, it is conceivable that motor imagery is an embodied cognitive process, involving a simulation of movements of one's own body. The alternative possibility is that, although motor imagery relies on knowledge of the motor processes, it does not entail an actual motor simulation that is influenced by the
... enced by the physical configuration of one's own body. Here we discriminate between these two hypotheses, in the context of an established motor imagery task: laterality judgments of rotated hand drawings. We found that reaction times of hand laterality judgments followed the biomechanical constraints of left or right hand movements. Crucially, the position of subjects' own left and right arm influenced laterality judgments of left and right hands. In neural terms, hand laterality judgments activated a parieto-frontal network. The activity within this network increased with increasing biomechanical complexity of the imagined hand movements, even when the amount of stimulus rotation was identical. Moreover, activity in the intraparietal sulcus was modulated by subjects' own hand position: a larger incongruence in orientation between the subjects' hand and the stimulus hand led to a selective increase in intraparietal activity. Our results indicate that motor imagery generates motor plans that depend on the current configuration of the limbs. This motor plan is calculated by a parieto-frontal network. Within this network, the posterior parietal cortex appears to incorporate proprioceptive information related to the current position of the body into the motor plan.