Motor imagery (MI) is a commonly used paradigm for the study of motor learning or cognitive aspects of action control. The rationale for using MI training to promote the relearning of motor function arises from research on the functional correlates that MI shares with the execution of physical movements. While most of the previous studies investigating MI were based on simple movements in the present study a more attractive mental practice was used to investigate cortical activation during MI. We measured cerebral responses with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in twenty three healthy volunteers as they imagined playing soccer or tennis before and after a short physical sports exercise. Our results demonstrated that only 10 min of training are enough to boost MI patterns in motor related brain regions including premotor cortex and supplementary motor area (SMA) but also fronto-parietal and subcortical structures. This supports previous findings that MI has beneficial effects especially in combination with motor execution when used in motor rehabilitation or motor learning processes. We conclude that sports MI combined with an interactive game environment could be a promising additional tool in future rehabilitation programs aiming to improve upper or lower limb functions or support neuroplasticity.
Fields of Expertise
- Human- & Biotechnology