Author(s): Lonard G, Tremblay F
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Abstract In the present report, we extent our previous findings (Clark et al. in Neuropsychologia 42:105-122, 2004) on corticomotor facilitation associated with covert (observation and imagery) and overt execution (action imitation) of hand actions to better delineate the selectivity of the effect in the context of an object-oriented action. A second aim was to examine whether the pattern of facilitation would be affected by age. Corticomotor facilitation was determined in two groups of participants (young n = 21, 24 +/- 2 years; old n = 19, 62 +/- 6 years) by monitoring changes in the amplitude and latency of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) elicited in hand muscles by transcranial magnetic stimulation. MEP responses were measured from both the first dorsal interosseous (FDI, task selective muscle) and the abductor digiti minimi (ADM) of the right hand while participants attended to four different video presentations. Each of four videos provided specific instructions for participants to either: (1) close their eyes and relax (REST), (2) observe the action attentively (OBS), (3) close their eyes and mentally simulate the action (IMAG), or (4) imitate the action (IMIT). The action depicted in the videos represented a male subject cutting a piece of material with scissors. In the young group, the pattern of results revealed selective facilitation in the FDI in conditions involving either covert (OBS and IMAG) or overt action execution (IMIT). In the ADM, only overt execution with action imitation was associated with significant MEP facilitation. In the old group, a similar pattern of results was observed, although the modulation was less selective than that seen in the young group. In fact, older individuals often exhibited concomitant facilitation in both the FDI and ADM during either covert (OBS and IMAG conditions) or overt action execution (IMIT condition). Taken together, these results further corroborate the notion that the corticomotor system is selectively active when actions are covertly executed through internal simulation triggered by observation or by motor imagery, as proposed by Jeannerod (Neuroimage 14:S103-S109, 2001). With aging, the ability to produce corticomotor facilitation in association with covert action execution appears to be largely preserved, although there seems to be a loss in selectivity. This lack of selectivity may, in turn, reflect age-related alterations in the function of the corticospinal system, which may impair the ability to individuate finger movements either in the covert or overt stage of action execution.
This article was published in Exp Brain Res
and referenced in Journal of Novel Physiotherapies