Perceptual and motor mechanisms for mental rotation of human hands

Z. C. Thayer, B. W. Johnson*, M. C. Corballis, J. P. Hamm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


We measured brain potentials from human subjects performing a mental rotation task requiring right-left judgments of misoriented hands, and a control task requiring palm-back judgments of the same stimuli. High-density, 128-channel event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 16 normal, right-handed subiects. There was a main effect of task at five different latencies: 148 ms (occipital), 180 ms (parietal), 388 ms (vertex), 556 ms (central-parietal), and 900 ms (vertex). Source estimations derived from topographic data indicate that frontal brain regions were strongly activated after 300 ms in the control task, but not until about 900 ms in the rotation task. We conclude that the neural computations underlying mental hand rotation may be recruited from relatively early stages of visuo-perceptual analysis; these early computations influence subsequent processing within a parietal-prefrontal system for the integration of perception with action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3433-3437
Number of pages5
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain mapping
  • Event-related potential
  • Mental rotation
  • Object identification
  • Topography


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