, Volume 159, Issue 3, pp 389-399
Date: 12 Oct 2004

Actual and mental motor preparation and execution: a spatiotemporal ERP study

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Studies evaluating the role of the executive motor system in motor imagery came to a general agreement in favour of the activation of the primary motor area (M1) during imagery, although in reduced proportion as compared to motor execution. It is still unclear whether this difference occurs within the preparation period or the execution period of the movement, or both. In the present study, EEG was used to investigate separately the preparation and the execution periods of overt and covert movements in adults. We designed a paradigm that randomly mixed actual and kinaesthetic imagined trials of an externally paced sequence of finger key presses. Sixty channel event-related potentials were recorded to capture the cerebral activations underlying the preparation for motor execution and motor imagery, as well as cerebral activations implied in motor execution and motor imagery. Classical waveform analysis was combined with data-driven spatiotemporal segmentation analysis. In addition, a LAURA source localization algorithm was applied to functionally define brain related motor areas. Our results showed first that the difference between actual and mental motor acts takes place at the late stage of the preparation period and consists of a quantitative modulation of the activity of common structures in M1. Second, they showed that primary motor structures are involved to the same extent in the actual or imagined execution of a motor act. These findings reinforce and refine the functional equivalence hypothesis between actual and imagined motor acts.