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.