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Magn Reson Imaging. 2004 Dec;22(10):1539-48.

Percept-related activity in the human somatosensory system: functional magnetic resonance imaging studies.

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Dip. Scienze e Tecnologie Biomediche, Univ. di Udine, P.le Kolbe 4, I-33100 Udine, Italy.


In this paper, we review blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies addressing the neural correlates of touch, thermosensation, pain and the mechanisms of their cognitive modulation in healthy human subjects. There is evidence that fMRI signal changes can be elicited in the parietal cortex by stimulation of single mechanoceptive afferent fibers at suprathreshold intensities for conscious perception. Positive linear relationships between the amplitude or the spatial extents of BOLD fMRI signal changes, stimulus intensity and the perceived touch or pain intensity have been described in different brain areas. Some recent fMRI studies addressed the role of cortical areas in somatosensory perception by comparing the time course of cortical activity evoked by different kinds of stimuli with the temporal features of touch, heat or pain perception. Moreover, parametric single-trial functional MRI designs have been adopted in order to disentangle subprocesses within the nociceptive system. Available evidence suggest that studies that combine fMRI with psychophysical methods may provide a valuable approach for understanding complex perceptual mechanisms and top-down modulation of the somatosensory system by cognitive factors specifically related to selective attention and to anticipation. The brain networks underlying somatosensory perception are complex and highly distributed. A deeper understanding of perceptual-related brain mechanisms therefore requires new approaches suited to investigate the spatial and temporal dynamics of activation in different brain regions and their functional interaction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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