The embodied nature of motor imagery: the influence of posture and perspective

Exp Brain Res. 2009 Apr;194(2):233-43. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1693-1. Epub 2009 Jan 13.


It is assumed that imagining oneself from a first-person perspective (1PP) is more embodied than a third-person perspective (3PP). Therefore, 1PP imagery should lead to more activity in motor and motor-related structures, and the postural configuration of one's own body should be particularly relevant in 1PP simulation. The present study investigated whether proprioceptive information on hand position is integrated similarly in 1PP and 3PP imagery of hand movements. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, 20 right-handed female college students watched video sequences of different hand movements with their right hand in a compatible versus incompatible posture and subsequently performed 1PP or 3PP imagery of the movement. Results showed stronger activation in left hemisphere motor and motor-related structures, especially the inferior parietal lobe, on 1PP compared with 3PP trials. Activation in the left inferior parietal lobe (parietal operculum, SII) and the insula was stronger in 1PP trials with compatible compared with incompatible posture. Thus, proprioceptive information on actual body posture is more relevant for 1PP imagery processes. Results support the embodied nature of 1PP imagery and indicate possible applications in athletic training or rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Hand*
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Posture*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult