We examined the similarities between actual and motor imagery practice with regard to the development of sensorimotor representations. Participants had to reproduce knee joint positions (15 or 150 trials) in visuo-proprioceptive or proprioceptive conditions (Experiment 1) or in visual, proprioceptive or visuo-proprioceptive imagery conditions (Experiment 2), before being transferred in a proprioceptive condition. A familiarization session in a proprioceptive condition was performed before imagery practice only (Experiment 2). Results showed that the effect of vision withdrawal varied according to actual or motor imagery practice: performance accuracy in transfer decreased after actual visuo-proprioceptive practice while it increased after visuo-proprioceptive imagery practice. These results suggest that different movement representations can be developed following actual or imagery practice. They also suggest that information from previous experience could be stored in a sensori-motor memory and could be fundamental for the efficiency of motor imagery practice.
The authors are with CeRCA, CNRS UMR 6234, Poitiers, France.