Internal vs external generation of movements: differential neural pathways involved in bimanual coordination performed in the presence or absence of augmented visual feedback

Neuroimage. 2003 Jul;19(3):764-76. doi: 10.1016/s1053-8119(03)00148-4.


It is commonly agreed that a functional dissociation with respect to the internal vs external control of movements exists for several brain regions. This has, however, only been tested in relation to the timing and preparation of motor responses, but not to ongoing movement control. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the present study addressed the neuroanatomical substrate of the internal-external control hypothesis by comparing regional brain activation for cyclical bimanual movements performed in the presence or absence of augmented visual feedback. Subjects performed a bimanual movement pattern, either with the help of on-line visual feedback of the movements (externally guided coordination) or with the eyes closed on the basis of an internal representation of the movement pattern (internally generated coordination). Visual control and baseline rest conditions were also added. Results showed a clear functional dissociation within the network involved in movement coordination. The hMT/V5+, the superior parietal cortex, the premotor cortex, the thalamus, and cerebellar lobule VI showed higher activation levels when movements were guided by visual feedback. Conversely, the basal ganglia, the supplementary motor area, cingulate motor cortex, the inferior parietal, frontal operculum, and cerebellar lobule IV-V/dentate nucleus showed higher involvement when movements were internally generated. Consequently, the present findings suggest the existence of distinct cortico-cortical and subcortico-cortical neural pathways for externally (augmented feedback) and internally guided cyclical bimanual movements. This provides a neurophysiological account for the beneficial effect of providing augmented visual feedback to optimize movements in normal and motor disordered patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biofeedback, Psychology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*