The neural basis of kinesthetic and visual imagery in sports: an ALE meta - analysis

Brain Imaging Behav. 2018 Oct;12(5):1513-1523. doi: 10.1007/s11682-017-9813-9.


Imagery is a widely spread technique in the sport sciences that entails the mental rehearsal of a given situation to improve an athlete's learning, performance and motivation. Two modalities of imagery are reported to tap into distinct brain structures, but sharing common components: kinesthetic and visual imagery. This study aimed to investigate the neural basis of those types of imagery with Activation Likelihood Estimation algorithm to perform a meta - analysis. A systematic search was used to retrieve only experimental studies with athletes or sportspersons. Altogether, nine studies were selected and an ALE meta - analysis was performed. Results indicated significant activation of the premotor, somatosensory cortex, supplementary motor areas, inferior and superior parietal lobule, caudate, cingulate and cerebellum in both imagery tasks. It was concluded that visual and kinesthetic imagery share similar neural networks which suggests that combined interventions are beneficial to athletes whereas separate use of those two modalities of imagery may seem less efficient from a neuropsychological approach.

Keywords: Imagery; Meta − analysis; Neuroimage; Sports; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Kinesthesis / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Sports / psychology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*