The functional equivalence of overt movements and dynamic imagery is of fundamental importance in neuroscience. Here, we investigated the participation of the neocortical motor areas in a classic task of dynamic imagery, Shepard and Metzler's mental rotation task, by time-resolved single-trial functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The subjects performed the mental-rotation task 16 times, each time with different object pairs. Functional images were acquired for each pair separately, and the onset times and widths of the activation peaks in each area of interest were compared to the response times. We found a bilateral involvement of the superior parietal lobule, lateral premotor area, and supplementary motor area in all subjects; we found, furthermore, that those areas likely participate in the very act of mental rotation. We also found an activation in the left primary motor cortex, which seemed to be associated with the right-hand button press at the end of the task period.

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