Comparison of brain activity between motor imagery and mental rotation of the hand tasks: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Brain Imaging Behav. 2018 Dec;12(6):1596-1606. doi: 10.1007/s11682-017-9821-9.


Motor imagery (MI) has been considered effective in learning and practicing movements in many fields. However, when evaluating the effectiveness of this technique, the examiner has no way of assessing the participant's motor imagery process. As an alternative, we have been exploring a mental body-part rotation task, in which the examiner can estimate the participant's motivation and ability to sustain attention through the scored results. In this study, we aimed to investigate the possible application of a mental rotation (MRot) task and used fMRI to compare the brain activity during the MRot task with that during an MI task in healthy volunteers. Increased blood oxygenation level-dependent signals were observed bilaterally in the premotor areas and supplementary motor area during performance of both MI and MRot tasks. Our findings suggest that MRot could be an alternative to MI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen