Imagined Viewer and Object Rotations Dissociated with Event-Related fMRI

Jeffrey M. Zacks, Jean M. Vettel, Pascale Michelon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Human spatial reasoning may depend in part on two dissociable types of mental image transformations: object-based transformations, in which an object is imagined to move in space relative to the viewer and the environment, and perspective transformations, in which the viewer imagines the scene from a different vantage point. This study measured local brain activity with event-related fMRI while participants were instructed to either imagine an array of objects rotating (an object-based transformation) or imagine themselves rotating around the array (a perspective transformation). Object-based transformations led to selective increases in right parietal cortex and decreases in left parietal cortex, whereas perspective transformations led to selective increases in left temporal cortex. These results argue against the view that mental image transformations are performed by a unitary neural processing system, and they suggest that different overlapping systems are engaged for different image transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1018
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003


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