Re-imagining motor imagery: building bridges between cognitive neuroscience and sport psychology

Br J Psychol. 2012 May;103(2):224-47. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02068.x. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


One of the most remarkable capacities of the mind is its ability to simulate sensations, actions, and other types of experience. A mental simulation process that has attracted recent attention from cognitive neuroscientists and sport psychologists is motor imagery or the mental rehearsal of actions without engaging in the actual physical movements involved. Research on motor imagery is important in psychology because it provides an empirical window on consciousness and movement planning, rectifies a relative neglect of non-visual types of mental imagery, and has practical implications for skill learning and skilled performance in special populations (e.g., athletes, surgeons). Unfortunately, contemporary research on motor imagery is hampered by a variety of semantic, conceptual, and methodological issues that prevent cross-fertilization of ideas between cognitive neuroscience and sport psychology. In this paper, we review these issues, suggest how they can be resolved, and sketch some potentially fruitful new directions for inter-disciplinary research in motor imagery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Neurosciences
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Sports Medicine
  • Time Perception / physiology