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Movement-related potentials associated with movement preparation and motor imagery


Movement-related potentials (MRPs), reflecting cortical activity associated with voluntary movement, typically show a slowly increasing negative potential beginning between 1 and 2 s prior to movement, which most likely reflects motor preparatory processes. Studies of regional cerebral blood flow implicate the supplementary motor area in such preparatory processes; however, the contribution of the supplementary motor area to premovement activity observed in MRPs is debated. It is possible to examine MRPs relating to movement prepa4-ration alone, in the absence of movement execution, by recording MRPs associated with imagined movements. In this study, MRPs were recorded from 11 healthy control subjects while performing a sequential button-pressing task in response to external cues, and while imagining performance of the same task in response to the same cues. The early component of MRPs was found not to differ in amplitude, onset time, or topography when performing compared with imagining movement, indicating that both movement execution and motor imagery involve similar pre-movement preparatory processes generated in the same cortical area — most likely the supplementary motor area. It is therefore concluded that the early component of the MRP reflects activity arising pre-dominantly from the supplementary motor area and is associated with pre-movement motor preparatory processes which occur relatively independently of actual movement execution.

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Cunnington, R., Iansek, R., Bradshaw, J.L. et al. Movement-related potentials associated with movement preparation and motor imagery. Exp Brain Res 111, 429–436 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00228732

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Key words

  • Movement-related potentials
  • Motor imagery
  • Supplementary motor area
  • Human