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Keywords:

  • flutter;
  • SI;
  • SII;
  • somatosensory;
  • tactile;
  • TMS;
  • vibration

Abstract

A number of human and animal studies have reported a differential representation of the frequency of vibrotactile stimuli in the somatosensory cortices: neurons in the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) are predominantly responsive to lower frequencies of tactile vibration, and those in the secondary somatosensory cortex (SII) are predominantly responsive to higher frequencies. We employed transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over SI in human subjects to investigate the extent to which the inactivation of SI disrupted the discrimination of vibrotactile stimulation at frequencies that give rise to the tactile sensations of flutter (30 Hz) and vibration (200 Hz). Frequency discrimination around the 30-Hz standard following application of TMS to SI was reduced in seven of the eight subjects, and around the 200-Hz standard was reduced in all eight subjects. The average change in discrimination following TMS was about 20% for both low and high frequencies of vibrotactile stimulation. These data suggest that disruption of SI: (1) has a direct effect on the discrimination of both low and high frequencies of vibrotactile stimuli, consistent with a serial model of processing, or (2) has a direct effect on low-frequency vibrotactile stimuli and an indirect effect on the processing of high-frequency vibrotactile stimuli by SII via cortico-cortical connections between the two regions.