Effects of Stimulus Type and Strategy on Mental Rotation Network: An Activation Likelihood Estimation Meta-Analysis

Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Jan 7:9:693. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00693. eCollection 2015.


We can predict how an object would look like if we were to see it from different viewpoints. The brain network governing mental rotation (MR) has been studied using a variety of stimuli and tasks instructions. By using activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis we tested whether different MR networks can be modulated by the type of stimulus (body vs. non-body parts) or by the type of tasks instructions (motor imagery-based vs. non-motor imagery-based MR instructions). Testing for the bodily and non-bodily stimulus axis revealed a bilateral sensorimotor activation for bodily-related as compared to non-bodily-related stimuli and a posterior right lateralized activation for non-bodily-related as compared to bodily-related stimuli. A top-down modulation of the network was exerted by the MR tasks instructions with a bilateral (preferentially sensorimotor left) network for motor imagery- vs. non-motor imagery-based MR instructions and the latter activating a preferentially posterior right occipito-temporal-parietal network. The present quantitative meta-analysis summarizes and amends previous descriptions of the brain network related to MR and shows how it is modulated by top-down and bottom-up experimental factors.

Keywords: ALE meta-analysis; fMRI; mental imagery; mental rotation.