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Eur J Neurosci. 1997 Oct;9(10):2178-86.

Somatotopy in the human motor cortex hand area. A high-resolution functional MRI study.

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  • 1Biomedizinische NMR Forschungs GmbH am Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie, Göttingen, Germany.


Fine-scale somatotopic encoding in brain areas devoted to sensorimotor processing has recently been questioned by functional neuroimaging studies which suggested its absence within the hand area of the human primary motor cortex. We re-examined this issue by addressing somatotopy both in terms of functional segregation and of cortical response preference using oxygenation-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging at high spatial resolution. In a first step, spatial representations of self-paced isolated finger movements were mapped by using motor rest as a control state. A subsequent experimental design studied the predominance of individual finger movements by using contrasting finger movements as the control task. While the first approach confirmed previous reports of extensive overlap in spatial representations, the second approach revealed foci of differential activation which displayed an orderly mediolateral progression in accordance with the classical cortical motor homunculus. We conclude that somatotopy within the hand area of the primary motor cortex does not present as qualitative functional segregation but as quantitative predominance of certain movement or digit representation embedded in an overall joint hand area.

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