Implementation of specific motor expertise during a mental rotation task of hands

Exp Brain Res. 2014 Nov;232(11):3465-73. doi: 10.1007/s00221-014-4029-3. Epub 2014 Jul 16.


Mental rotation of the hands classically induces kinesthetic effects according to the direction of the rotation, with faster response times to the hands' medial rotations compared with lateral rotations, and is thus commonly used to induce engagement in motor imagery (MI). In the present study, we compared the performances of table tennis players (experts on hand movements), who commonly execute and observe fast hand movements, to those of soccer players (non-experts on hand movements) on a mental rotation task of hands. Our results showed a significant effect of the direction of rotation (DOR) confirming the engagement of the participants in MI. In addition, only hand movement experts were faster when the task figures corresponded to their dominant hand compared with the non-dominant hand, revealing a selective effect of motor expertise. Interestingly, the effect of the DOR collapsed in hand movement experts only when the task figures corresponded to their dominant hand, but it is noteworthy that lateral and medial rotations of the right-hand stimuli were not faster than medial rotations of the left-hand stimuli. These results are discussed in relation to possible strategies during the task. Overall, the present study highlights the embodied nature of the mental rotation task of hands by revealing selective effects of motor expertise.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Athletes
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hand*
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Rotation*
  • Young Adult