Mental imagery of speech: Linking motor and perceptual systems through internal simulation and estimation

Xing Tian, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The neural basis of mental imagery has been investigated by localizing the underlying neural networks, mostly in motor and perceptual systems, separately. However, how modality-specific representations are top-down induced and how the action and perception systems interact in the context of mental imagery is not well understood. Imagined speech production ('articulation imagery'), which induces the kinesthetic feeling of articulator movement and its auditory consequences, provides a new angle because of the concurrent involvement of motor and perceptual systems. On the basis of previous findings in mental imagery of speech, we argue for the following regarding the induction mechanisms of mental imagery and the interaction between motor and perceptual systems: (1) Two distinct top-down mechanisms, memory retrieval and motor simulation, exist to induce estimation in perceptual systems. (2) Motor simulation is sufficient to internally induce the representation of perceptual changes that would be caused by actual movement (perceptual associations); however, this simulation process only has modulatory effects on the perception of external stimuli, which critically depends on context and task demands. Considering the proposed simulation-estimation processes as common mechanisms for interaction between motor and perceptual systems, we outline how mental imagery (of speech) relates to perception and production, and how these hypothesized mechanisms might underpin certain neural disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberNOVEMBER 2012
StatePublished - Nov 6 2012


  • Auditory hallucination
  • Corollary discharge
  • Efference copy
  • Internal forward model
  • Mirror neurons
  • Phantom limb
  • Sensory-motor integration
  • Stuttering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Mental imagery of speech: Linking motor and perceptual systems through internal simulation and estimation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this