Brain activation during executed (EM) and imagined movements (IM) of the right and left hand was studied in 10 healthy right-handed subjects using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI). Low electromyographic (EMG) activity of the musculi flexor digitorum superficialis and high vividness of the imagined movements were trained prior to image acquisition. Regional cerebral activation was measured by fMRI during EM and IM and compared to resting conditions. Anatomically selected regions of interest (ROIs) were marked interactively over the entire brain. In each ROI activated pixels above a t value of 2.45 (p < 0.01) were counted and analyzed. In all subjects the supplementary motor area (SMA), the premotor cortex (PMC), and the primary motor cortex (M1) showed significant activation during both EM and IM; the somatosensory cortex (S1) was significantly activated only during EM. Ipsilateral cerebellar activation was decreased during IM compared to EM. In the cerebellum, IM and EM differed in their foci of maximal activation: Highest ipsilateral activation of the cerebellum was observed in the anterior lobe (Larsell lobule H IV) during EM, whereas a lower maximum was found about 2-cm dorsolateral (Larsell lobule H VII) during IM. The prefrontal and parietal regions revealed no significant changes during both conditions. The results of cortical activity support the hypothesis that motor imagery and motor performance possess similar neural substrates. The differential activation in the cerebellum during EM and IM is in accordance with the assumption that the posterior cerebellum is involved in the inhibition of movement execution during imagination.

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