Handedness impacts the neural correlates of kinesthetic motor imagery and execution: A FMRI study

Monica Crotti, Karl Koschutnig, Selina Christin Wriessnegger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The human brain functional lateralization has been widely studied over the past decades, and neuroimaging studies have shown how activation of motor areas during hand movement execution (ME) is different according to hand dominance. Nevertheless, there is no research directly investigating the effects of the participant's handedness in a motor imagery (MI) and ME task in both right and left-handed individuals at the cortical and subcortical level. Twenty-six right-handed and 25 left-handed participants were studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging during the imagination and execution of repetitive self-paced movements of squeezing a ball with their dominant, non-dominant, and both hands. Results revealed significant statistical difference (p < 0.05) between groups during both the execution and the imagery task with the dominant, non-dominant, and both hands both at cortical and subcortical level. During ME, left-handers recruited a spread bilateral network, while in right-handers, activity was more lateralized. At the critical level, MI between-group analysis revealed a similar pattern in right and left-handers showing a bilateral activation for the dominant hand. Differentially at the subcortical level, during MI, only right-handers showed the involvement of the posterior cerebellum. No significant activity was found for left-handers. Overall, we showed a partial spatial overlap of neural correlates of MI and ME in motor, premotor, sensory cortices, and cerebellum. Our results highlight differences in the functional organization of motor areas in right and left-handed people, supporting the hypothesis that MI is influenced by the way people habitually perform motor actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)798-826
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • cerebellum
  • fMRI
  • handedness
  • motor execution
  • motor imagery
  • RRID:SCR_002502
  • RRID:SCR_016216

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology


  • BioTechMed-Graz


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