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Neuroimage. 2013 Aug 1;76:294-303. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.03.025. Epub 2013 Mar 22.

No somatotopy of sensorimotor alpha-oscillation responses to differential finger stimulation.

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Neurophysics Group, Department of Neurology, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Hindenburgdamm 30, 12203 Berlin, Germany.


The somatotopic layout of the primary somatosensory cortex is known for its fine spatial structure as delineated in single cell recordings and macroscopic EEG evoked responses. While a gross somatotopic layout has been revealed also for neuronal oscillations responding to sensorimotor stimulation of distant body parts (e.g. hand vs. foot), it is still unclear whether these oscillatory dynamics exhibit fine spatial layout comparable to those found in evoked responses. In twelve healthy subjects we applied electric stimuli to the first (D1) and fifth finger (D5) of the same hand while performing high-density electroencephalography. We used Common Spatial Pattern analysis to optimally extract components showing the strongest Event-Related Desynchronization (ERD) in neuronal alpha oscillations. In agreement with the previous studies, dipole locations of Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (SEPs) confirmed the existence of spatially distinct representations of each finger. In contrast, dipole locations of alpha-ERD patterns did not yield spatially different source locations, indicating that the stimulation of different fingers most likely resulted in oscillatory activity of overlapping neuronal populations. When both fingers were stimulated simultaneously the SEP dipole strength was found increased in comparison to a stimulation of either finger alone, in agreement with spatially distinct SEP to finger stimulation. The strength of ERD, on the other hand, was the same regardless of whether either one or both fingers were stimulated. Our findings might reflect anatomical constraints on the sequential temporal activation of fingers' skin where almost simultaneous activation of many fingers usually occurs in everyday activities, such as grasping or holding objects. Such simultaneity is unlikely to benefit from slow amplitude modulation of alpha oscillations, which would rather be beneficial for contrasting somatosensory processing of distinct body parts.

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