Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 199, Issue 1, pp 71–81 | Cite as

Action observation improves motor imagery: specific interactions between simulative processes

  • Massimiliano ConsonEmail author
  • Marco Sarà
  • Francesca Pistoia
  • Luigi TrojanoEmail author
Research Article


In the present study, we demonstrated that observation of hand rotation had specific facilitation effects on a classical motor imagery task, the hand-laterality judgement. In Experiment 1, we found that action observation improved subjects’ performance on the hand laterality but not on the letter rotation task (stimulus specificity). In Experiment 2, we demonstrated that this facilitation was not due to mere observation of a moving hand, because it was triggered by observation of manual rotation but not of manual prehension movements (motion specificity). In Experiment 3, this stimulus- and motion-specific effect was found to be right hand-specific, compatible with left-hemispheric specialization in motor imagery but not in action observation. These data provided direct support to the idea that different simulation states, such as action observation and motor imagery, share some common mechanisms but also show specific functional differences.


Action observation Motor imagery Mental rotation Motor system 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuropsychology Laboratory, Department of PsychologySecond University of NaplesCasertaItaly
  2. 2.Post-Coma and Rehabilitation Care Unit, Istituto San RaffaeleCassinoItaly
  3. 3.Department of Internal Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of L’AquilaL’AquilaItaly
  4. 4.Salvatore Maugeri Foundation, IRCCS, Scientific Institute of Telese Terme (BN)Telese TermeItaly

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