Cognitive Processing

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 211–229 | Cite as

Motor imagery and higher-level cognition: four hurdles before research can sprint forward

  • Christopher R. Madan
  • Anthony Singhal


Traditionally, higher-level cognition has been described as including processes such as attention, memory, language, and decision-making. However, motor processing and motor imagery are important aspects of cognition that have typically been considered outside of the traditional view. Recent research has demonstrated that there may be a critical functional relationship between motor imagery and other higher-level cognitive processes. Here we present a review of the extant literature on motor imagery and cognition, as well as outline four hurdles that must be addressed before the field investigating the influence of motor-based processes on higher-level cognition can be moved forward. These hurdles include problems distinguishing between visual and motor processes, addressing the differences in tasks and stimuli used to evoke motor imagery, accounting for individual differences in motor imagery ability, and identifying the appropriate neural correlates. It is important that these hurdles are addressed in future research so we can sprint forward and further our knowledge about this interesting relationship.


Motor imagery Cognition Memory Language Mental imagery Embodied cognition Visual imagery 



We thank Chris Westbury for constructive feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript. This research was partly funded by a Discovery grant from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada held by AS.


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Systems NeuroscienceUniversity Medical Center Hamburg-EppendorfHamburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and Centre for NeuroscienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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