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Mental rotation task of hands: differential influence number of rotational axes

By A.C. ter Horst, R.J. van Lier and B. Steenbergen


Various studies on the hand laterality judgment task, using complex sets of stimuli, have shown that the judgments during this task are dependent on bodily constraints. More specific, these studies showed that reaction times are dependent on the participant's posture or differ for hand pictures rotated away or toward the mid-sagittal plane (i.e., lateral or medial rotation, respectively). These findings point to the use of a cognitive embodied process referred to as motor imagery. We hypothesize that the number of axes of rotation of the displayed stimuli during the task is a critical factor for showing engagement in a mental rotation task, with an increased number of rotational axes leading to a facilitation of motor imagery. To test this hypothesis, we used a hand laterality judgment paradigm in which we manipulated the difficulty of the task via the manipulation of the number of rotational axes of the shown stimuli. Our results showed increased influence of bodily constraints for increasing number of axes of rotation. More specifically, for the stimulus set containing stimuli rotated over a single axis, no influence of biomechanical constraints was present. The stimulus sets containing stimuli rotated over more than one axes of rotation did induce the use of motor imagery, as a clear influence of bodily constraints on the reaction times was found. These findings extend and refine previous findings on motor imagery as our results show that engagement in motor imagery critically depends on the used number of axes of rotation of the stimulus set

Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s00221-010-2235-1
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Provided by: NARCIS
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