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Mental rotation of objects versus hands: Neural mechanisms revealed by positron emission tomography

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 April 2001

STEPHEN M. KOSSLYN
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA
GREGORY J. DIGIROLAMO
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
WILLIAM L. THOMPSON
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
NATHANIEL M. ALPERT
Affiliation:
Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA
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Abstract

Twelve right-handed men participated in two mental rotation tasks as their regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was monitored using positron emission tomography. In one task, participants mentally rotated and compared figures composed of angular branching forms; in the other task, participants mentally rotated and compared drawings of human hands. In both cases, rCBF was compared with a baseline condition that used identical stimuli and required the same comparison, but in which rotation was not required. Mental rotation of branching objects engendered activation in the parietal lobe and Area 19. In contrast, mental rotation of hands engendered activation in the precentral gyrus (M1), superior and inferior parietal lobes, primary visual cortex, insula, and frontal Areas 6 and 9. The results suggest that at least two different mechanisms can be used in mental rotation, one mechanism that recruits processes that prepare motor movements and another mechanism that does not.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
1998 Society for Psychophysiological Research

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