Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 2, pp 497–503 | Cite as

Analysis of mirror neuron system activation during action observation alone and action observation with motor imagery tasks

  • Bülent Cengiz
  • Doğa Vurallı
  • Murat Zinnuroğlu
  • Gözde Bayer
  • Hassan Golmohammadzadeh
  • Zafer Günendi
  • Ali Emre Turgut
  • Bülent İrfanoğlu
  • Kutluk Bilge Arıkan
Research Article


This study aimed to explore the relationship between action observation (AO)-related corticomotor excitability changes and phases of observed action and to explore the effects of pure AO and concurrent AO and motor imagery (MI) state on corticomotor excitability using TMS. It was also investigated whether the mirror neuron system activity is muscle-specific. Fourteen healthy volunteers were enrolled in the study. EMG recordings were taken from the right first dorsal interosseous and the abductor digiti minimi muscles. There was a significant main effect of TMS timing (after the beginning of the movement, at the beginning of motor output state, and during black screen) on the mean motor evoked potential (MEP) amplitude. Mean MEP amplitudes for AO combined with MI were significantly higher than pure AO session. There was a significant interaction between session and TMS timing. There was no significant main effect of muscle on MEP amplitude. The results indicate that corticomotor excitability is modulated by different phases of the observed motor movement and this modulation is not muscle-specific. Simultaneous MI and AO enhance corticomotor excitability significantly compared to pure AO.


Action observation Motor imagery Corticomotor excitability Transcranial magnetic stimulation 



This work was supported by the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) under Grant 114E621.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bülent Cengiz
    • 1
  • Doğa Vurallı
    • 1
  • Murat Zinnuroğlu
    • 1
  • Gözde Bayer
    • 2
  • Hassan Golmohammadzadeh
    • 3
  • Zafer Günendi
    • 1
  • Ali Emre Turgut
    • 4
  • Bülent İrfanoğlu
    • 3
  • Kutluk Bilge Arıkan
    • 3
  1. 1.Motor Control Laboratory, Department of NeurologyGazi University Faculty of MedicineAnkaraTurkey
  2. 2.Department of Bioengineering, Institute of Natural SciencesHacettepe UniversityAnkaraTurkey
  3. 3.Cognitive Robotics Research Lab., Department of MechatronicsAtilim UniversityAnkaraTurkey
  4. 4.Department of Mechanical EngineeringMiddle East Technical UniversityAnkaraTurkey

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