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The relationship between corticospinal excitability during motor imagery and motor imagery ability.

Williams, Jacqueline and Pearce, Alan J. and Loporto, Michela and Morris, Tony and Holmes, Paul S. (2012) The relationship between corticospinal excitability during motor imagery and motor imagery ability. Behavioural brain research, 226 (2). pp. 369-375. ISSN 1872-7549

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Abstract

It is commonly reported that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the motor cortex during action observation and motor imagery results in increases in the amplitude of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in muscles specific to the observed or imagined action. This study aimed to determine whether MEP amplitude was related to the motor imagery ability of participants. Participants were 15 healthy, right-handed adults (five male), with a mean age of 29.7 years. Motor imagery ability was measured using the Vividness of Movement Imagery Questionnaire-2 (VMIQ-2) and a hand rotation task. TMS was delivered during observation and imagery of a finger-thumb opposition sequence and MEPs were measured in the abductor pollicis brevis. Significant increases in MEP amplitude, from baseline, were recorded during observation and imagery conditions. The change in amplitude to both observation and imagery was expressed as a percentage of baseline amplitude. There was a significant correlation between MEP change for the imagery condition and imagery ability, with greater change linked to more vivid images and faster response times. The relationship between MEP change for the observation condition and imagery ability was less salient. This is the first study to show that the strength of corticospinal activation during imagery, which may be a determinant of the effectiveness of imagery training, is related to imagery ability in the general population, and has implications for clinical programs.

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