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.