Effects of Motor Imagery on Cognitive Function and Prefrontal Cortex Activity in Normal Adults Evaluated by NIRS
Recent near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) studies demonstrated that physical exercise enhances working memory (WM) performance and prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity during WM tasks in normal adults. Interestingly, the effects of rehabilitation (i.e. physiotherapy) on post-stroke patients could be enhanced by motor imagery (MI), an active process during which the specified action is reproduced within WM without any actual physical movement. However, it is not known whether MI can enhance cognitive function and associated brain activity. To clarify these issues, we evaluated the effect of MI on WM performance and PFC activity during WM tasks in normal adults, employing NIRS. We studied 10 healthy adults. The present study was a crossover comparison test; the MI training and control condition (rest) were applied to the subjects at random. The Time Up and Go method was used for MI training: the subject sat on a chair and conducted MI for 3 min, three times. Neuronal activity (oxyhemoglobin concentration) in the bilateral PFC was measured using 2-CH NIRS during WM tasks. We found that MI improved the behavioral performance of WM compared with the control (p < 0.01). NIRS revealed that MI enhanced PFC activity induced by the WM task compared with the control task (p < 0.01). These results suggest that MI can improve cognitive function and increase associated PFC activity in normal adults.
KeywordsNIRS Rehabilitation Working memory Prefrontal cortex Motor imagery
This research was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Sciences and Technology of Japan (Grant-in-Aid for Exploratory Research 25560356), and grants from Alpha Electron Co., Ltd. (Fukushima, Japan) and Iing Co., Ltd. (Tokyo, Japan).
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