Motor Imagery During Action Observation in Virtual Reality: The Impact of Watching Myself Performing at a Level I Have Not Yet Achieved

Cornelia Frank, Felix Hülsmann, Thomas Waltemate, David J. Wright, Daniel L. Eaves, Adam M. Bruton, Mario Botsch, Thomas Schack

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Feedforward modeling, the creation of one’s own behaviour that is potentially achiev-able in the future, can support motor performance and learning. While this has been shown for sequences of motor actions, it remains to be tested whether feedforward modelling is benefi-cial for single complex motor actions. Using an immersive, state-of-the-art, low-latency Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE), we compared motor imagery during action observa-tion (AOMI) of oneself performing at one’s current skill level against AOMI of oneself per-forming at an achievable future skill level. We performed 3D scans and created a ready-to-animate virtual human of each participant. During acquisition, participants observed an avatar of themselves performing either one of their own previously executed squats (Me-Novice) or observed an avatar of themselves performing a skilled squat (Me-Skilled), whilst simultane-ously imagining the feelings and sensations associated with movement execution. Findings revealed an advantage for the Me-Skilled group as compared to the Me-Novice group in mo-tor performance and cognitive representation structure, while self-efficacy improved in both groups. In comparison to watching and imagining oneself performing at the current novice skill level, watching and imagining oneself performing at a more advanced skill level prevent-ed from making errors in motor performance and led to perceptual-cognitive scaffolding as shown by functional changes in underlying representations. Simultaneous imagery whilst ob-serving future states of action may therefore help to establish cognitive prerequisites that ena-ble better motor performance. To this end, virtual reality is a promising tool to create learning environments that exceed an individual’s current performance level.

© 2022, The Author(s). The attached document (embargoed until 19/05/2023) is an author produced version of a paper published in INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2022

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