Corticospinal excitability during motor imagery is diminished by continuous repetition-induced fatigue

Neural Regen Res. 2021 Jun;16(6):1031-1036. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.300448.


Application of continuous repetition of motor imagery can improve the performance of exercise tasks. However, there is a lack of more detailed neurophysiological evidence to support the formulation of clear standards for interventions using motor imagery. Moreover, identification of motor imagery intervention time is necessary because it exhibits possible central fatigue. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to elucidate the development of fatigue during continuous repetition of motor imagery through objective and subjective evaluation. The study involved two experiments. In experiment 1, 14 healthy young volunteers were required to imagine grasping and lifting a 1.5-L plastic bottle using the whole hand. Each participant performed the motor imagery task 100 times under each condition with 48 hours interval between two conditions: 500 mL or 1500 mL of water in the bottle during the demonstration phase. Mental fatigue and a decrease in pinch power appeared under the 1500-mL condition. There were changes in concentration ability or corticospinal excitability, as assessed by motor evoked potentials, between each set with continuous repetition of motor imagery also under the 1500-mL condition. Therefore, in experiment 2, 12 healthy volunteers were required to perform the motor imagery task 200 times under the 1500-mL condition. Both concentration ability and corticospinal excitability decreased. This is the first study to show that continuous repetition of motor imagery can decrease corticospinal excitability in addition to producing mental fatigue. This study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee at the Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical and Health Sciences (approval No. 18121302) on January 30, 2019.

Keywords: central nervous system; concentration; continuous repetition of motor imagery; corticospinal excitability; mental fatigue; motor evoked potential; motor imagery; muscle fatigue; neurophysiology; transcranial magnetic stimulation.