The object of this study was to clarify whether corticospinal excitability controlling hand muscles changes concurrently with increases in the imagined contraction level of foot dorsiflexion. Twelve participants performed actual and imagined dorsiflexion of their right foot at three different EMG levels (10, 40 or 80% of the maximum voluntary contraction). During isometric actual- or imagined- dorsiflexion, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was delivered to the right hand area of the left primary motor cortex. Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from the right extensor carpi radialis (ECR) and flexor carpi radialis (FCR). During actual contraction, MEP amplitudes of ECR and FCR increased with an increased EMG level of dorsiflexion. Similarly, during imagery contraction, MEP amplitudes of ECR and FCR increased with the intensity of imagery contraction. Furthermore, a correlation between MEP amplitude during actual contraction and imagery contraction was observed for both ECR and FCR. Motor imagery of foot contraction induced an enhancement of corticospinal excitability for hand muscles that was dependent on the imagined contraction levels, just as what was observed when there was an actual contraction.
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