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Neuroimage. 2001 Apr;13(4):613-22.

Cortical responses to single mechanoreceptive afferent microstimulation revealed with fMRI.

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Department of Odontology, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, SE-141 04, Sweden.


The technique of intraneural microneurography/microstimulation has been used extensively to study contributions of single, physiologically characterized mechanoreceptive afferents (MRAs) to properties of somatosensory experience in awake human subjects. Its power as a tool for sensory neurophysiology can be greatly enhanced, however, by combining it with functional neuroimaging techniques that permit simultaneous measurement of the associated CNS responses. Here we report its successful adaptation to the environment of a high-field MR scanner. Eight median-nerve MRAs were isolated and characterized in three subjects and microstimulated in conjunction with fMRI at 3.0 T. Hemodynamic responses were observed in every case, and these responses were robust, focal, and physiologically orderly. The combination of fMRI with microstimulation will enable more detailed studies of the representation of the body surface in human somatosensory cortex and further studies of the relationship of that organization to short-term plasticity in the human SI cortical response to natural tactile stimuli. It can also be used to study many additional topics in sensory neurophysiology, such as CNS responses to additional classes of afferents and the effects of stimulus patterning and unimodal/crossmodal attentional manipulations. Finally, it presents unique opportunities to investigate the basic physiology of the BOLD effect and to compare the operating characteristics of fMRI and EEG as human functional neuroimaging modalities in an unusually specific and well-characterized neurophysiological setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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