The cortical, cerebellar and brainstem BOLD-signal changes have been identified with fMRI in humans during mental imagery of walking. In this study the whole brain activation and deactivation pattern during real locomotion was investigated by [(18)F]-FDG-PET and compared to BOLD-signal changes during imagined locomotion in the same subjects using fMRI. Sixteen healthy subjects were scanned at locomotion and rest with [(18)F]-FDG-PET. In the locomotion paradigm subjects walked at constant velocity for 10 min. Then [(18)F]-FDG was injected intravenously while subjects continued walking for another 10 min. For comparison fMRI was performed in the same subjects during imagined walking. During real and imagined locomotion a basic locomotion network including activations in the frontal cortex, cerebellum, pontomesencephalic tegmentum, parahippocampal, fusiform and occipital gyri, and deactivations in the multisensory vestibular cortices (esp. superior temporal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule) was shown. As a difference, the primary motor and somatosensory cortices were activated during real locomotion as distinct to the supplementary motor cortex and basal ganglia during imagined locomotion. Activations of the brainstem locomotor centers were more prominent in imagined locomotion. In conclusion, basic activation and deactivation patterns of real locomotion correspond to that of imagined locomotion. The differences may be due to distinct patterns of locomotion tested. Contrary to constant velocity real locomotion (10 min) in [(18)F]-FDG-PET, mental imagery of locomotion over repeated 20-s periods includes gait initiation and velocity changes. Real steady-state locomotion seems to use a direct pathway via the primary motor cortex, whereas imagined modulatory locomotion an indirect pathway via a supplementary motor cortex and basal ganglia loop.
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