Neural correlates of motor imagery for elite archers

Department of Molecular Medicine, Kyungpook National University College of Medicine, Kyungpook National University Hospital, Daegu, South Korea.
NMR in Biomedicine (Impact Factor: 3.04). 01/2010; 24(4):366-72. DOI: 10.1002/nbm.1600
Source: PubMed


Motor imagery is a mental rehearsal of simple or complex motor acts without overt body movement. It has been proposed that the association between performance and the mental rehearsal period that precedes the voluntary movement is an important point of difference between highly trained athletes and beginners. We compared the activation maps of elite archers and nonarchers during mental rehearsal of archery to test whether the neural correlates of elite archers were more focused and efficiently organised than those of nonarchers. Brain activation was measured using functional MRI in 18 right-handed elite archers and 18 right-handed nonarchers. During the active functional MRI imagery task, the participants were instructed to mentally rehearse their archery shooting from a first-person perspective. The active imagery condition was tested against the nonmotor imagery task as a control condition. The results showed that the premotor and supplementary motor areas, and the inferior frontal region, basal ganglia and cerebellum, were active in nonarchers, whereas elite archers showed activation primarily in the supplementary motor areas. In particular, our result of higher cerebellar activity in nonarchers indicates the increased participation of the cerebellum in nonarchers when learning an unfamiliar archery task. Therefore, the difference in cerebellar activation between archers and nonarchers provides evidence of the expertise effect in the mental rehearsal of archery. In conclusion, the relative economy in the cortical processes of elite archers could contribute to greater consistency in performing the specific challenge in which they are highly practised.

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    • "Guillot et al. (2008) provided evidence that the focused recruitment of the brain motor system was a neurophysiological correlate of both motor and MI expertise. Top performers elicited reduced motor network activations during MI of highly-automated motor skills as compared to novices (Ross et al. 2003; Milton et al. 2007; Chang et al. 2011). Generally speaking, the extent of cortical recruitment during MI can be considered an index of the involvement of mental resources in the generation of motor representations (Debarnot et al. 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Motor imagery (MI - i.e., the mental representation of an action without physically executing it) stimulates brain motor networks and promotes motor learning after spinal cord injury (SCI). An interesting issue is whether the brain networks controlling MI are being reorganized with reference to spared motor functions. In this pilot study, we tested using magnetoencephalography (MEG) whether changes in cortical recruitment during MI were related to the motor changes elicited by rehabilitation. Over a 1-year period of inclusion, C6 SCI participants (n = 4) met stringent criteria for inclusion in a rehabilitation program focused on the tenodesis prehension (i.e., a compensatory prehension enabling seizing of objects in spite of hand and forearm muscles paralysis). After an extended baseline period of 5 weeks including repeated MEG and chronometric assessments of motor performance, MI training was embedded to the classical course of physiotherapy for five additional weeks. Posttest MEG and motor performance data were collected. A group of matched healthy control participants underwent a similar procedure. The MI intervention resulted in changes in the variability of the wrist extensions, i.e., a key movement of the tenodesis grasp (p < .05). Interestingly, the extent of cortical recruitment, quantified by the number of MEG activation sources recorded within Brodmann areas 1-8 during MI of the wrist extension, significantly predicted actual movement variability changes across sessions (p < .001). However, no such relationship was present for movement times. Repeated measurements afforded a reliable statistical power (range .70-.97). This pilot study does not provide straightforward evidence of MI efficacy, which would require a randomized controlled trial. Nonetheless, the data showed that the relationship between action and imagery of spared actions may be preserved after SCI.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Experimental Brain Research
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    • "Elite athletes yielded greater activation in the parahippocampus during imagery of professional skills and a more focused activity of the prefrontal regions in both tasks. In a comparable study in archers, Chang et al. (2011) reported peaks of activation in premotor and SMA, in the inferior frontal region, as well as in basal ganglia and cerebellum, in novices. In contrast, elite archers involved predominantly the SMA, hence confirming a more focused pattern of activity following intense training. "
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    ABSTRACT: Skill learning is the improvement in perceptual, cognitive, or motor performance following practice. Expert performance levels can be achieved with well-organized knowledge, using sophisticated and specific mental representations and cognitive processing, applying automatic sequences quickly and efficiently, being able to deal with large amounts of information, and many other challenging task demands and situations that otherwise paralyze the performance of novices. The neural reorganizations that occur with expertise reflect the optimization of the neurocognitive resources to deal with the complex computational load needed to achieve peak performance. As such, capitalizing on neuronal plasticity, brain modifications take place over time-practice and during the consolidation process. One major challenge is to investigate the neural substrates and cognitive mechanisms engaged in expertise, and to define "expertise" from its neural and cognitive underpinnings. Recent insights showed that many brain structures are recruited during task performance, but only activity in regions related to domain-specific knowledge distinguishes experts from novices. The present review focuses on three expertise domains placed across a motor to mental gradient of skill learning: sequential motor skill, mental simulation of the movement (motor imagery), and meditation as a paradigmatic example of "pure" mental training. We first describe results on each specific domain from the initial skill acquisition to expert performance, including recent results on the corresponding underlying neural mechanisms. We then discuss differences and similarities between these domains with the aim to identify the highlights of the neurocognitive processes underpinning expertise, and conclude with suggestions for future research.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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    • "According to the 'neural efficiency principle' one may expect that due to increased expertise, experts showed lower and more focused brain activation. Findings from previous studies have demonstrated highly focused brain activation during motor imagery in professional athletes based on their expertise, compared to novices [27] [36]. However, this expertise effect in brain activation was not observed in our study. "
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence from previous studies has suggested that motor imagery and motor action engage overlapping brain systems. As a result of this observation that motor imagery can activate brain regions associated with actual motor movement, motor imagery is expected to enhance motor skill performance and become an underlying principle for physical training in sports and physical rehabilitation. However, few studies have examined the effects of physical training on motor imagery in beginners. Also, differences in neural networks related to motor imagery before and after training have seldom been studied. In the current study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we investigated the question of whether motor imagery can reflect plastic changes of neural correlates associated with intensive training. In fact, motor imagery was used in this study as a tool to assess the brain areas involved in shooting and involved in learning of shooting. We discovered that use of motor imagery resulted in recruitment of widely distributed common cortical areas, which were suggested to play a role in generation and maintenance of mental images before and after 90 h of shooting training. In addition to these common areas, brain activation before and after 90 h of shooting practice showed regionally distinct patterns of activity change in subcortical motor areas. That is, basal ganglia showed increased activity after 90 h of shooting practice, suggesting the occurrence of plastic change in association with gains in performance and reinforcement learning. Therefore, our results suggest that, in order to reach a level of expertise, the brain would change through initial reinforcement of preexistent connections during the training period and then use more focused neural correlates through formation of new connections.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · Behavioural brain research
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