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Motor representations and practice affect brain systems underlying imagery: an FMRI study of internal imagery in novices and active high jumpers
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB), Physiology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4458-6475
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Radiation Sciences, Radiation Physics. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Umeå Centre for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI).
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Radiation Sciences, Diagnostic Radiology. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB), Physiology. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Umeå Centre for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI).
2008 (English)In: The Open Neuroimaging Journal, ISSN 1874-4400, Vol. 2, 5-13 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate differences in brain activity between one group of active high jumpers and one group of high jumping novices (controls) when performing motor imagery of a high jump. It was also investigated how internal imagery training affects neural activity. The results showed that active high jumpers primarily activated motor areas, e.g. pre-motor cortex and cerebellum. Novices activated visual areas, e.g. superior occipital cortex. Imagery training resulted in a reduction of activity in parietal cortex. These results indicate that in order to use an internal perspective during motor imagery of a complex skill, one must have well established motor representations of the skill which then translates into a motor/internal pattern of brain activity. If not, an external perspective will be used and the corresponding brain activation will be a visual/external pattern. Moreover, the findings imply that imagery training reduces the activity in parietal cortex suggesting that imagery is performed more automatic and results in a more efficient motor representation more easily accessed during motor performance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 2, 5-13 p.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-19454DOI: 10.2174/1874440000802010005PubMedID: 19018312OAI: diva2:201823
Available from: 2009-03-05 Created: 2009-03-05 Last updated: 2015-10-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Imaging imagining actions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Imaging imagining actions
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Mental training has been studied extensively for the past century but we are still not completely sure how it affects brain and behavior. The aim of this doctoral thesis was to examine one aspect of mental training i.e. motor imagery. In Study I, active high jumpers were trained for 6 weeks using a motor imagery mental training program. We measured behavioral effects in motor parameters such as total height, false attempts, take off angle, and bar clearance. A significant improvement was found on the bar clearance component compared to a control group of high jumpers that did not participate in the mental training program. The results emphasize the importance of using appropriate outcome measures since mental training may affect distinct features of the movement rather than the entire movement. Study II used fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to examine the neural correlates of imagery for active high jumpers, and also how imagery training affects brain activity. Active high jumpers were compared to a control group of high jumping novices and the results showed that high jumpers were able to activate motor regions, whereas controls used parts of the visual system to perform imagery of the high jump. Thus, we were able to show how important well established motor representations are in order to achieve a neural overlap between imagery and action. In study III we examined the effects after motor, mental and combined motor and mental training on a finger tapping task. Behaviorally, even though mental training improved performance, adding mental training to motor training did not improve the results beyond only using motor training. Imaging results showed that motor and mental training engaged different neural systems, with motor training associated with motor activity and mental training with visual activity. The combination of motor and mental training activated both motor and visual systems. Additionally combining motor and mental training resulted in transfer to an untrained motor sequence and neural data indicated that cerebellum mediated the transfer. The overall findings explain how mental training can be used to improve motor performance and motor parameters. Moreover, it also illustrates that the neural processes underlying such improvements may be distinct from motor training and that the brain may react differently during mental training depending on prior physical experience of the action.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Integrativ medicinsk biologi, 2008. 63 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1211
mental training, motor training, novices, imaging, athletes, fMRI, internal imagery, motor representation, brain systems, practice, learning, transfer, active
National Category
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1910 (URN)978-91-7264-658-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-11-28, BiA201, Biologihuset, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2008-11-10 Created: 2008-11-10 Last updated: 2010-01-18Bibliographically approved

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