In this study, we utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signals. This allowed us to evaluate the relationship between brain activity and imagined force level. Subjects performed motor imagery of repetitive right hand grasping with three different levels of contractile force; 10%, 30%, and 60% of their maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). We observed a common activation among each condition in the following brain regions; the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), supplementary motor area (SMA), premotor area (PM), insula, and inferior parietal lobule (IPL). In addition, the BOLD signal changes were significantly larger at 60% MVC than at 10% MVC in the right PM, the right IPL, and the primary somatosensory cortex (SI). These findings indicate that during motor imagery right fronto-parietal activity increases as the imagined contractile force level is intensified. The present finding that the right brain activity during motor imagery is clearly altered depending on the imagined force level suggests that it may be possible to decode intended force level during the motor imagery of patients or healthy subjects.
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