Motor Representations and Practice Affect Brain Systems Underlying Imagery: An fMRI Study of Internal Imagery in Novices and Active High Jumpers

C.-J Olsson*, 1, Bert Jonsson2, Anne Larsson3, 4, Lars Nyberg1, 3, 4
1 Department of Integrative Medical Biology Umeå University, S-901 87 Umeå, Sweden
2 Department of Psychology, Umeå University, S-901 87 Umeå, Sweden
3 Department of Radiation Sciences Umeå University, S-901 87 Umeå Sweden
4 Umeå center for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI)

2008 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Umeå University, S-901 87 Umeå, Sweden; Tel: +46 90786 5186-13; Fax: +46 90 786 6696; E-mail:


This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate differences in brain activity between one group of active high jumpers and one group of high jumping novices (controls) when performing motor imagery of a high jump. It was also investigated how internal imagery training affects neural activity. The results showed that active high jumpers primarily activated motor areas, e.g. pre-motor cortex and cerebellum. Novices activated visual areas, e.g. superior occipital cortex. Imagery training resulted in a reduction of activity in parietal cortex. These results indicate that in order to use an internal perspective during motor imagery of a complex skill, one must have well established motor representations of the skill which then translates into a motor/internal pattern of brain activity. If not, an external perspective will be used and the corresponding brain activation will be a visual/external pattern. Moreover, the findings imply that imagery training reduces the activity in parietal cortex suggesting that imagery is performed more automatic and results in a more efficient motor representation more easily accessed during motor performance.