Although activation of dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) has been consistently observed in the neuroimaging studies of mental rotation, the functional meaning of PMd activation is still unclear and multiple alternative explanations have been suggested. The present study used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to investigate the role of PMd in mental rotation. Two tasks were used, involving mental rotation of hands and abstract objects, with either matching (same stimuli) or mirror stimuli.
Compared to sham stimulation, TMS over right and left PMd regions significantly affected accuracy in the object task, specifically for the same stimuli. Furthermore, response times were longer following right PMd stimulation in both the object and the hand tasks, but again, selectively for the same stimuli.
The effect of rotational angle on response times and accuracies was greater for the same stimuli. Moreover TMS over PMd impaired the performance accuracy selectively in these stimuli, mainly in a task that included abstract objects. For these reasons, the present findings indicate a contribution of PMd to mental rotation.