Motor imagery (MI) refers to the process of imagining the execution of a specific motor action without actually producing an overt movement. Two forms of MI have been distinguished: visual MI and kinesthetic MI. To distinguish between these forms of MI we employed an event related potential (ERP) study to measure interference effects induced by hand orientation manipulations in a hand laterality judgement task. We hypothesized that this manipulation should only affect kinesthetic MI but not visual MI. The ERPs elicited by rotated hand stimuli contained the classic rotation related negativity (RRN) with respect to palm view stimuli. We observed that laterally rotated stimuli led to a more marked RRN than medially rotated stimuli. This RRN effect was observed when participants had their hands positioned in either a straight (control) or an inward rotated posture, but not when their hands were positioned in an outward rotated posture. Posture effects on the ERP-RRN have not previously been studied. Apparently, a congruent hand posture (hands positioned in an outward rotated fashion) facilitates the judgement of the otherwise more demanding laterally rotated hand stimuli. These ERP findings support a kinesthetic interpretation of MI involved in solving the hand laterality judgement task. The RRN may be used as a non-invasive marker for kinesthetic MI and seems useful in revealing the covert behavior of MI in e.g. rehabilitation programs.
Jongsma, M. A., Meulenbroek, R. G. J., Okely, J., Baas, M., Baas, M., van der Lubbe, R. H. J., & Steenbergen, B. (2013). Effects of hand orientation on motor imagery - event related potentials suggest kinesthetic motor imagery to solve the hand laterality judgment task. PLoS ONE, 8(9), 1-10. [e76515]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0076515