Talk: The nature of motor imagery: A behavioural and neuroimaging perspective

13. April 2018
CITEC lecture hall

Much of the rationale for the use of motor imagery in learning and rehabilitation is the prevailing belief that it is very similar to physical performance. Indeed, motor imagery is often referred to as ‘motor planning without the execution’. Evidence in support of this assumption comes from neuroimaging studies showing similar patterns of brain activity during actual and imagined performance of the same task. Motor imagery is hypothesized to drive brain plasticity because it engages similar neural substrates to physical practice – the gold standard for learning and rehabilitation. Despite this evidence, learning and recovery that occurs via imagery is inferior to that of physical performance, leading us to question the fundamental assumption that motor imagery is simply motor planning without execution. Our recent work has explored the nature of imagery-based learning, leading to the contention that motor imagery involves unique mechanisms that are not associated with physical performance, and that the resulting learning is fundamentally different. This talk will summarize our past work on the nature of MI-based learning, including behavioural and neuroimaging studies. The overarching goal of this work is to address gaps in our understanding of the mechanisms underlying motor imagery-based learning, with the long-term goal of leveraging this knowledge to improve the prescription of imagery-based therapies.