The mental rotation (MR) task is defined as a discrimination task between mirror-reversed images involving discrepancy in angular orientation. Various studies have shown that the MR task likely causes mental imagery, that is, visual and/or motor imagery, depending on stimulus types. When figures of rotated hands are presented to be identified as a left or right hand, reaction times (RTs) usually show an effect of biomechanical constraints (BC): a hand in a position difficult to reach with a real movement results in longer RTs. The BC effect as a marker of motor imagery has been investigated by brain function measures (fMRI, PET, EEG and MEG) as well as by RTs. Unlike other neuroimaging techniques, NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy) imposes few physical constraints on participants and is relatively unaffected by motion artifact, which permits serial assessments of tasks in relaxed and natural environment. Focusing on these advantages, a NIRS study on motor imagery in HLJ was carried out in which we measured the brain activation during the HLJ task and a single character judgment task. In the HLJ task, both the RTs and the activity of the left superior parietal lobe (SPL) showed an interaction between Hand (left, right) and Orientation (135°, 225°) i.e., the BC effect, but not in the character judgment task. More specifically, in the analysis of BC-related activity of SPL, although the Hand × Orientation interaction was significant, the left SPL for the left hand significantly increased from 135° to 225°, but the reversed increase (from 225° to 135°) was not found for the right hand. These results suggest that left SPL is involved in the BC effect and NIRS differentiates left hand awkwardness of right-hander in the HLJ task.
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