The object of this study was to clarify how the motor imagery of foot muscle relaxation influences corticospinal excitability for the ipsilateral hand. Twelve participants volitionally relaxed their right foot from a dorsiflexed position (actual relaxation), or imaged the same movement (imagery relaxation) in response to an auditory cue. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was delivered to the hand area of the left primary motor cortex at different time intervals after an auditory cue. Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from the right extensor carpi radialis (ECR) and flexor carpi radialis (FCR). MEP amplitudes of ECR and FCR caused by single-pulse TMS temporarily decreased during both actual relaxation and imagery relaxation as compared with those of the resting control. A correlation of MEP amplitude between actual relaxation and imagery relaxation was observed. Our findings indicate that motor imagery of muscle relaxation of the foot induced a reduction of corticospinal excitability in the ipsilateral hand muscles. This effect is likely produced via the same mechanism that functions during actual muscle relaxation.
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