Sensing movements of the upper and lower extremities is important in controlling whole-body movements. We have shown that kinesthetic illusory hand movements activate motor areas and right-sided fronto-parietal cortices. We investigated whether illusions for the upper and lower extremities, i.e. right or left hand or foot, activate the somatotopical sections of motor areas, and if an illusion for each limb engages the right-sided cortices.
We scanned the brain activity of 19 blindfolded right-handed participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they experienced an illusion for each limb elicited by vibrating its tendon at 110 Hz (ILLUSION). As a control, we applied identical stimuli to the skin over a nearby bone, which does not elicit illusions (VIBRATION). The illusory movement (ILLUSION vs. VIBRATION) of each immobile limb activated limb-specific sections of the contralateral motor cortex (along with somatosensory area 3a), dorsal premotor cortex (PMD), supplementary motor area (SMA), cingulate motor area (CMA), and the ipsilateral cerebellum, which normally participate in execution of movements of the corresponding limb. We found complex non-limb-specific representations in rostral parts of the bilateral SMA and CMA, and illusions for all limbs consistently engaged concentrated regions in right-sided fronto-parietal cortices and basal ganglia. This study demonstrated complete sets of brain representations related to kinesthetic processing of single-joint movements of the four human extremities. The kinesthetic function of motor areas suggests their importance in somatic perception of limb movement, and the non-limb-specific representations indicate high-order kinesthetic processing related to human somatic perception of one's own body.