JOURNAL ARTICLE

Motor imagery of foot dorsiflexion and gait: effects on corticospinal excitability

M Bakker, S Overeem, A H Snijders, G Borm, G van Elswijk, I Toni, B R Bloem
Clinical Neurophysiology: Official Journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology 2008, 119 (11): 2519-27
18838294

OBJECTIVE: We examined how corticospinal excitability was affected by motor imagery of foot dorsiflexion and motor imagery of gait.

METHODS: Transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied over the primary motor cortex of 16 young healthy subjects while they performed imaginary foot dorsiflexions (Experiment I) and imaginary walking (Experiment II). Motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from the tibialis anterior (TA) and first dorsal interosseus (FDI). MEPs recorded during motor imagery were compared to those recorded during a matched visual imagery task.

RESULTS: Imagined foot dorsiflexions increased MEP areas in both TA and FDI. The increase in TA was stronger than in FDI. Overall, imagined walking did not change MEP areas. However, subjects with larger increases in TA during imagined foot dorsiflexion also showed larger increases in TA during imagined walking.

CONCLUSIONS: Imagined foot dorsiflexions increase corticospinal excitability in both a task-related muscle (TA) and a task-unrelated muscle (FDI), with larger increases in the task-related muscle. Imagined gait only increases corticospinal excitability in those subjects with the largest increments during imagined foot dorsiflexion.

SIGNIFICANCE: Imagery of a simple lower extremity movement evokes increases in corticospinal excitability. Furthermore, corticospinal effects of a simple motor imagery task can predict corticospinal effects of a more complex motor imagery task involving the same muscle.

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