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Keywords:

  • PET;
  • cytoarchitectonic mapping;
  • human;
  • cerebral cortex;
  • muscle receptors;
  • mechanoreceptors;
  • area 3a;
  • area 3b;
  • area 1;
  • area 2

Abstract

The aim of this study was to locate neuronal populations in the somatosensory areas engaged during discrimination of differences in: (1) static sustained pressure on the distal phalanx (PRESS); (2) spring strengths (SSTIFF) during active flexion of the right index finger; and (3) the change in position of a limb with contracting muscles, i.e., kinesthesia (KIN), during active flexion of the right index finger. The stimuli used were spring-loaded cylinders. The regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured with positron emission tomography (PET). The active fields were related to cytoarchitectonic areas of the somatosensory cortex (areas 3a, 3b, 1, and 2) and the primary motor cortex (areas 4a and 4p). We hypothesized that SSTIFF and KIN would activate areas 3a and 2. All three conditions, when contrasted against a rest condition, activated cytoarchitectural areas 3b, 1, and 2, and presumptive somatosensory areas in the left parietal operculum and right supramarginal gyrus in accordance with these areas receiving information from cutaneous mechanoreceptive afferents. Area 3a was only activated in SSTIFF and KIN, consistent with observations in monkeys and cats, showing that afferents from muscle receptors project to area 3a, and indicating that a similar arrangement seems to be apparent in humans. SSTIFF and KIN activated the right anterior lobe of the cerebellum, the left area 4a and left area 2 more than did PRESS, likely due to a combination of active movements and muscle receptor feed-back. Hum. Brain Mapp. 20:103–115, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.