Incongruent imagery interferes with action initiation

Richard Ramsey*, Jennifer Cumming, Daniel Eastough, Martin G. Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


It has been suggested that representing an action through observation and imagery share neural processes with action execution. In support of this view, motor-priming research has shown that observing an action can influence action initiation. However, there is little motor-priming research showing that imagining an action can modulate action initiation. The current study examined whether action imagery could prime subsequent execution of a reach and grasp action. Across two motion analysis tracking experiments, 40 participants grasped an object following congruent or incongruent action imagery. In Experiment 1, movement initiation was faster following congruent compared to incongruent imagery, demonstrating that imagery can prime the initiation of grasping. In Experiment 2, incongruent imagery resulted in slower movement initiation compared to a no-imagery control. These data show that imagining a different action to that which is performed can interfere with action production. We propose that the most likely neural correlates of this interference effect are brain regions that code imagined and executed actions. Further, we outline a plausible mechanistic account of how priming in these brain regions through imagery could play a role in action cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249–254
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • imagery
  • common coding
  • premotor
  • parietal
  • priming
  • action cognition


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