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Neuroimage. 2010 Jan 1;49(1):177-84. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.07.024. Epub 2009 Jul 23.

The somatosensory representation of the human clitoris: an fMRI study.

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Institute of Functional Neurosurgery, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.


We studied the central representation of pudendal afferents arising from the clitoral nerves in 15 healthy adult female subjects using electrical dorsal clitoral nerve stimulation and fMRI. As a control body region, we electrically stimulated the right hallux in eight subjects. In a block design experiment, we applied bilateral clitoral stimulation and unilateral (right) hallux stimulation. Activation maps were calculated for the contrasts 'electrical dorsal clitoral nerve stimulation versus rest' and 'electrical hallux stimulation versus rest'. A random-effect group analysis for the clitoral stimulation showed significant activations bilateral in the superior and inferior frontal gyri, insulae and putamen and in the postcentral, precentral and inferior parietal gyri (including the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices). No activation was found on the mesial surface of the postcentral gyrus. For the hallux, activations occurred in a similar neuronal network but the activation in the primary somatosensory cortex was localized in the inter-hemispheric fissure. The results of this study demonstrate that the central representation of pudendal afferents arising from the clitoral nerves and sensory inputs from the hallux can be studied and distinguished from each other by fMRI. From the somatotopic order described in the somatosensory homunculus one would expect for electrical clitoral nerve stimulation activation of the mesial wall of the postcentral gyrus. In contrast, we found activations on the lateral surface of the postcentral gyrus.

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