Motor imagery can be divided into kinesthetic and visual aspects. In the present study, we investigated excitability in the corticospinal tract and primary visual cortex (V1) during kinesthetic and visual motor imagery. To accomplish this, we measured motor evoked potentials (MEPs) and probability of phosphene occurrence during the two types of motor imageries of finger tapping. The MEPs and phosphenes were induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation to the primary motor cortex and V1, respectively. The amplitudes of MEPs and probability of phosphene occurrence during motor imagery were normalized based on the values obtained at rest. Corticospinal excitability increased during both kinesthetic and visual motor imagery, while excitability in V1 was increased only during visual motor imagery. These results imply that modulation of cortical excitability during kinesthetic and visual motor imagery is task dependent. The present finding aids in the understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying motor imagery and provides useful information for the use of motor imagery in rehabilitation or motor imagery training.
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