Brain activation patterns characterizing different phases of motor action: execution, choice and ideation

Simona Gardini, Annalena Venneri, William Jonathan McGeown, Cristian Toraci, Luca Nocetti, Carlo Adolfo Porro, Paolo Caffarra

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Motor behaviour is controlled by a large set of interacting neural structures, subserving the different components involved in hierarchical motor processes. Few studies have investigated the neural substrate of higher-order motor ideation, i.e. the mental operation of conceiving a movement. The aim of this functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study was to segregate the neural structures involved in motor ideation from those involved in movement choice and execution. An index finger movement paradigm was adopted, including three different conditions: performing a pre-specified movement, choosing and executing a movement and ideating a movement of choice. The tasks involved either the right or left hand, in separate runs. Neuroimaging results were obtained by comparing the different experimental conditions and computing conjunction maps of the right and left hands for each contrast. Pre-specified movement execution was supported by bilateral fronto-parietal motor regions, the cerebellum and putamen. Choosing and executing finger movement involved mainly left fronto-temporal areas and the anterior cingulate. Motor ideation activated almost exclusively left hemisphere regions, including the inferior, middle and superior frontal regions, middle temporal and middle occipital gyri. These findings show that motor ideation is controlled by a cortical network mainly involved in abstract thinking, cognitive and motor control, semantic and visual imagery processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-692
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Topography
Issue number5
Early online date12 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • movement
  • ideation
  • motor ideation
  • fMRI
  • finger movement
  • functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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