Imagined rotations of self versus objects: an fMRI study.Neuropsychologia. 2005; 43(9):1351-61.N
This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying two types of spatial transformations: imagined object rotations and imagined rotations of the self about an object. Participants viewed depictions of single three-dimensional Shepard--Metzler objects situated within a sphere. A T-shaped prompt appeared outside of the sphere at different locations across trials. In the object rotation task, participants imagined rotating the object so that one of its ends was aligned with the prompt. They then judged whether a textured portion of the object would be visible in its new orientation. In the self rotation task, they imagined rotating themselves to the location of the T-prompt, and then judged whether a textured portion of the object would be visible from the new viewpoint. Activation in both tasks was compared to respective control conditions in which identical judgments were made without rotation. A direct comparison of self and object rotation tasks revealed activation spreading from left premotor to left primary motor (M1) cortex (areas 6/4) for imagined object rotations, but not imagined self rotations. In contrast, the self rotation task activated left supplementary motor area (SMA; area 6). In both transformations, activation also occurred in other regions. These findings provide evidence for multiple spatial-transformation mechanisms within the human cognitive system.