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Brain. 2018 Oct 1;141(10):3035-3051. doi: 10.1093/brain/awy219.

Motor and emotional behaviours elicited by electrical stimulation of the human cingulate cortex.

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University of Parma, Department of Medicine and Surgery, Parma, Italy.
Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Center for Biomolecular Nanotechnologies, Arnesano, Lecce, Italy.
CNR Institute of Neuroscience, Parma, Italy.
Claudio Munari Center for Epilepsy Surgery, Ospedale Niguarda-Ca' Granda, Milan, Italy.


The cingulate cortex is a mosaic of different anatomical fields, whose functional characterization is still a matter of debate. In humans, one method that may provide useful insights on the role of the different cingulate regions, and to tackle the issue of the functional differences between its anterior, middle and posterior subsectors, is intracortical electrical stimulation. While previous reports showed that a variety of integrated behaviours could be elicited by stimulating the midcingulate cortex, little is known about the effects of the electrical stimulation of anterior and posterior cingulate regions. Moreover, the internal arrangement of different behaviours within the midcingulate cortex is still unknown. In the present study, we extended previous stimulation studies by retrospectively analysing all the clinical manifestations induced by intracerebral high frequency electrical stimulation (50 Hz, pulse width: 1 ms, 5 s, current intensity: average intensity of 2.7 ± 0.7 mA, biphasic) of the entire cingulate cortex in a cohort of 329 drug-resistant epileptic patients (1789 stimulation sites) undergoing stereo-electroencephalography for a presurgical evaluation. The large number of patients, on one hand, and the accurate multimodal image-based localization of stereo-electroencephalography electrodes, on the other hand, allowed us to assign specific functional properties to modern anatomical subdivisions of the cingulate cortex. Behavioural or subjective responses were elicited from the 32.3% of all cingulate sites, mainly located in the pregenual and midcingulate regions. We found clear functional differences between the pregenual part of the cingulate cortex, hosting the majority of emotional, interoceptive and autonomic responses, and the anterior midcingulate sector, controlling the majority of all complex motor behaviours. Particularly interesting was the 'actotopic' organization of the anterior midcingulate sector, arranged along the ventro-dorsal axis: (i) whole-body behaviours directed to the extra-personal space, such as getting-up impulses, were elicited ventrally, close to the corpus callosum; (ii) hand actions in the peripersonal space were evoked by the stimulation of the intermediate position; and (iii) body-directed actions were induced by the stimulation of the dorsal branch of the cingulate sulcus. The caudal part of the midcingulate cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex were, in contrast, poorly excitable, and mainly devoted to sensory modalities. In particular, the caudal part of the midcingulate cortex hosted the majority of vestibular responses, while posterior cingulate cortex was the principal recipient of visual effects. We will discuss our data in the light of current controversies on the role of the cingulate cortex in cognition and emotion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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