Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 229, Issue 4, pp 561–570 | Cite as

Imagined actions in multiple sclerosis patients: evidence of decline in motor cognitive prediction

  • Andrea Tacchino
  • Marco Bove
  • Ludovico Pedullà
  • Mario Alberto Battaglia
  • Charalambos Papaxanthis
  • Giampaolo Brichetto
Research Article


Motor imagery is a mental process during which subjects internally simulate a movement without any motor output. Mental and actual movement durations are similar in healthy adults (isochrony) while temporal discrepancies (anisochrony) could be an expression of neurological deficits on action representation. It is unclear whether patients with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) preserve the capacity to simulate their own movements. This study investigates the ability of PwMS to predict their own actions by comparing temporal features of dominant and non-dominant actual and mental actions. Fourteen PwMS and nineteen healthy subjects (HS) were asked to execute and to imagine pointing arm movements among four pairs of targets of different sizes. Task duration was calculated for both actual and mental movements by an optoelectronic device. Results showed temporal consistency and target-by-target size modulation in actual movements through the four cycles for both groups with significantly longer actual and mental movement durations in PwMS with respect to HS. An index of performance (IP) was used to examine actual/mental isochrony properties in the two groups. Statistical analysis on IP showed in PwMS significantly longer actual movement durations with respect to mental movement durations (anisochrony), more relevant for the non-dominant than dominant arm. Mental prediction of motor actions is not well preserved in MS where motor and cognitive functional changes are present. Differences in performing imagined task with dominant and non-dominant arm could be related to increased cognitive effort required for performing non-dominant movements.


Multiple sclerosis Motor imagery Forward internal model Isochrony Motor cognition 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Tacchino
    • 1
  • Marco Bove
    • 2
  • Ludovico Pedullà
    • 1
  • Mario Alberto Battaglia
    • 3
  • Charalambos Papaxanthis
    • 4
    • 5
  • Giampaolo Brichetto
    • 1
  1. 1.Scientific Research AreaItalian Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (FISM)GenoaItaly
  2. 2.Section of Human Physiology, Department of Experimental MedicineUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Physiopathology, Experimental Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of SienaSienaItaly
  4. 4.UFR STAPS, INSERM U1093 Cognition, Action, et Plasticité SensorimotriceUniversité de BourgogneDijonFrance
  5. 5.UFR STAPSUniversité de BourgogneDijonFrance

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