Heremans, E., Smits-Engelsman, B., Caeyenberghs, K., Vercruysse, S., Nieuwboer, A., Feys, P. & Helsen, WF. (2011). Keeping an eye on imagery: The role of eye movements during motor imagery training. Neuroscience,195 37-44. United Kingdom: Pergamon Press. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.07.030
We recently found that spontaneous eye movements occur during motor imagery of hand movements, which are similar to those made during physical execution. In physical execution, eye movements have been shown to play an important role during training. In motor imagery practice, however, their effect remains unclear. Therefore, in the present study, we examined the role of eye movements during motor imagery practice with specific interest in the impact of task complexity and effector specificity. Thirty-six young healthy participants were tested before and after 4 days of visual motor imagery training on a Virtual Radial Fitts' task with different indices of difficulty. Training was performed with the nondominant hand only. Subjects were divided into a group that trained while spontaneous eye movements were allowed, one that kept the eyes fixed during training, and a control group. Electro-oculography and electromyography signals were monitored to guarantee task compliance during imagery. The results indicated that eye movements during imagery did not affect the temporal parameters of the trained movement. They did, however, help to achieve maximal gains in movement accuracy and efficiency. These positive effects on the spatial parameters were most pronounced during conditions with high accuracy demands and were present for both the trained and the untrained hand. These findings contribute to guidelines for optimizing training protocols based on motor imagery.
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