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Tactile processing in human somatosensory and auditory cortices

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Title: Tactile processing in human somatosensory and auditory cortices
Author: Hlushchuk, Yevhen
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Radiology UnitBrain Research Unit of Low Temperature Laboratory, Helsinki University of TechnologyAdvanced Magnetic Imaging Centre, Helsinki University of Technology
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (article-based)
Abstract: Tactile sensation plays an important role in everyday life. While the somatosensory system has been studied extensively, the majority of information has come from studies using animal models. Recent development of high-resolution anatomical and functional imaging techniques has enabled the non-invasive study of human somatosensory cortex and thalamus.

This thesis provides new insights into the functional organization of the human brain areas involved in tactile processing using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The thesis also demonstrates certain optimizations of MEG and fMRI methods.

Tactile digit stimulation elicited stimulus-specific responses in a number of brain areas. Contralateral activation was observed in somatosensory thalamus (Study II), primary somatosensory cortex (SI; I, III, IV), and post-auditory belt area (III). Bilateral activation was observed in secondary somatosensory cortex (SII; II, III, IV). Ipsilateral activation was found in the post-central gyrus (area 2 of SI cortex; IV). In addition, phasic deactivation was observed within ipsilateral SI cortex and bilateral primary motor cortex (IV). Detailed investigation of the tactile responses demonstrated that the arrangement of distal-proximal finger representations in area 3b of SI in humans is similar to that found in monkeys (I). An optimized MEG approach was sufficient to resolve such fine detail in functional organization. The SII region appeared to contain double representations for fingers and toes (II). The detection of activations in the SII region and thalamus improved at the individual and group levels when cardiac-gated fMRI was used (II). Better detection of body part representations at the individual level is an important improvement, because identification of individual representations is crucial for studying brain plasticity in somatosensory areas.

The posterior auditory belt area demonstrated responses to both auditory and tactile stimuli (III), implicating this area as a physiological substrate for the auditory-tactile interaction observed in earlier psychophysical studies. Comparison of different smoothing parameters (III) demonstrated that proper evaluation of co-activation should be based on individual subject analysis with minimal or no smoothing.

Tactile input consistently influenced area 3b of the human ipsilateral SI cortex (IV). The observed phasic negative fMRI response is proposed to result from interhemispheric inhibition via trans-callosal connections.

This thesis contributes to a growing body of human data suggesting that processing of tactile stimuli involves multiple brain areas, with different spatial patterns of cortical activation for different stimuli.
URI: URN:ISBN:978-952-92-1527-0
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/22876
Date: 2007-01-17
Copyright information: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.
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