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The involvement of primary motor cortex in mental rotation revealed by transcranial magnetic stimulation


Eisenegger, Christoph; Herwig, Uwe; Jäncke, Lutz (2007). The involvement of primary motor cortex in mental rotation revealed by transcranial magnetic stimulation. European Journal of Neuroscience, 25(4):1240-1244.

Abstract

We used single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation of the left primary hand motor cortex and motor evoked potentials of the contralateral right abductor pollicis brevis to probe motor cortex excitability during a standard mental rotation task. Based on previous findings we tested the following hypotheses. (i) Is the hand motor cortex activated more strongly during mental rotation than during reading aloud or reading silently? The latter tasks have been shown to increase motor cortex excitability substantially in recent studies. (ii) Is the recruitment of the motor cortex for mental rotation specific for the judgement of rotated but not for nonrotated Shepard & Metzler figures? Surprisingly, motor cortex activation was higher during mental rotation than during verbal tasks. Moreover, we found strong motor cortex excitability during the mental rotation task but significantly weaker excitability during judgements of nonrotated figures. Hence, this study shows that the primary hand motor area is generally involved in mental rotation processes. These findings are discussed in the context of current theories of mental rotation, and a likely mechanism for the global excitability increase in the primary motor cortex during mental rotation is proposed.

We used single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation of the left primary hand motor cortex and motor evoked potentials of the contralateral right abductor pollicis brevis to probe motor cortex excitability during a standard mental rotation task. Based on previous findings we tested the following hypotheses. (i) Is the hand motor cortex activated more strongly during mental rotation than during reading aloud or reading silently? The latter tasks have been shown to increase motor cortex excitability substantially in recent studies. (ii) Is the recruitment of the motor cortex for mental rotation specific for the judgement of rotated but not for nonrotated Shepard & Metzler figures? Surprisingly, motor cortex activation was higher during mental rotation than during verbal tasks. Moreover, we found strong motor cortex excitability during the mental rotation task but significantly weaker excitability during judgements of nonrotated figures. Hence, this study shows that the primary hand motor area is generally involved in mental rotation processes. These findings are discussed in the context of current theories of mental rotation, and a likely mechanism for the global excitability increase in the primary motor cortex during mental rotation is proposed.

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21 citations in Web of Science®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
330 Economics
Language:English
Date:February 2007
Deposited On:16 Jun 2008 15:00
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:23
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0953-816X
Additional Information:The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05354.x
PubMed ID:17331219
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-2571

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