There is evidence to suggest that motor execution and motor imagery both involve planning and execution of the same motor plan, however, in the latter the output is inhibited. Currently, little is known about the underlying neural mechanisms of motor output inhibition during motor imagery. Uncovering the distinctive characteristics of motor imagery may help us better understand how we abstract complex thoughts and acquire new motor skills. The current study aimed to dissociate the cognitive processes involved in two distinct inhibitory mechanisms of motor inhibition and motor imagery restraint. Eleven healthy participants engaged in an imagined GO/NO-GO task during a 7 Tesla fMRI experiment. Participants planned a specific type of motor imagery, then, imagined the movements during the GO condition and restrained from making a response during the NO-GO condition. The results revealed that specific sub-regions of the supplementary motor cortex (SMC) and the primary motor cortex (M1) were recruited during the imagination of specific movements and information flowed from the SMC to the M1. Such condition-specific recruitment was not observed when motor imagery was restrained. Instead, general recruitment of the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) was observed, while the BOLD activity in the SMC and the M1 decreased below the baseline at the same time. Information flowed from the PPC to the SMC, and recurrently between the M1 and the SMC, and the M1 and the PPC. These results suggest that motor imagery involves task-specific motor output inhibition partly imposed by the SMC to the M1, while the PPC globally inhibits motor plans before they are passed on for execution during the restraint of responses.
- motor imagery
- motor network