Electroencephalographic differences between high and low mental imagery ability groups when learning a novel motor skill

G. Lovell, D. Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this investigation was to further the understanding of the cognitive mechanisms underpinning the relationship between movement mental imagery (MI) ability and rate of skill acquisition. Electroencephalograms (EEG) were recorded from 30 male participants classified as high or low on movement MI ability by the Movement Imagery Questionnaire (MIQ) while learning a novel motor skill. Repeated measures for slow alpha, fast alpha, slow beta and fast beta were compared across movement MI ability groups at points of practice selected on the basis of individuals' task performance scores. Results demonstrated movement MI ability group effects in all four of the EEG frequency wavebands analysed, which, with the sole exception of slow alpha, decreased with practice. The early practice effects of lower slow alpha (occipital sites) and higher fast alpha, slow beta and fast beta (central, parietal and motor areas) EEG power estimates of the lower movement MI participants are discussed in the context of developing mechanistic explanations of the movement MI ability and skill acquisition relationship. Conclusions based on these EEG results strongly suggest that movement MI ability and its relationship with skill acquisition is not merely a motivation/concentration artefact, but is based on neurological processing differences detectable by EEG procedures. Furthermore, the key factor in determining movement MI ability is the ability to manipulate movement images and this is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-295
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Human Movement Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Learning
  • Mental imagery
  • Mental imagery ability


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