Mental imagery of speech and movement implicates the dynamics of internal forward models

Xing Tian, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The classical concept of efference copies in the context of internal forward models has stimulated productive research in cognitive science and neuroscience. There are compelling reasons to argue for such a mechanism, but fnding direct evidence in the human brain remains diffcult. Here we investigate the dynamics of internal forward models from an unconventional angle: mental imagery, assessed while recording high temporal resolution neuronal activity using magnetoencephalography. We compare two overt and covert tasks; our covert, mental imagery tasks are unconfounded by overt input/output demands - but in turn necessitate the development of appropriate multi-dimensional topographic analyses. Finger tapping (studies 1 and 2) and speech experiments (studies 3-5) provide temporally constrained results that implicate the estimation of an efference copy. We suggest that one internal forward model over parietal cortex subserves the kinesthetic feeling in motor imagery. Secondly, observed auditory neural activity ~170 ms after motor estimation in speech experiments (studies 3-5) demonstrates the anticipated auditory consequences of planned motor commands in a second internal forward model in imagery of speech production. Our results provide neurophysiological evidence from the human brain in favor of internal forward models deploying efference copies in somatosensory and auditory cortex, in fnger tapping and speech production tasks, respectively, and also suggest the dynamics and sequential updating structure of internal forward models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 166
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 2010


  • Articulation
  • Auditory cortex
  • Corollary discharge
  • Efference copy
  • Imagined speech
  • Meg
  • Motor
  • Parietal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Mental imagery of speech and movement implicates the dynamics of internal forward models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this