Task-Relevant Modulation of Contralateral and Ipsilateral Primary Somatosensory Cortex and the Role of a Prefrontal-Cortical Sensory Gating System
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Electrophysiological studies have shown that task-relevant somatosensory information leads to selective facilitation within the primary somatosensory cortex (SI). The purpose of the present study was (1) to further explore the relationship between the relevancy of stimuli and activation within the contralateral and ipsilateral SI and (2) to provide further insight into the specific sensory gating network responsible for modulating neural activity within SI. Functional MRI of 12 normal subjects was performed with vibrotactile stimuli presented to the pad of the index finger. In experiment 1, the stimulus was presented to either the left or the right hand. Subjects were required to detect transient changes in stimulus frequency. In experiment 2, stimuli were presented to either the right hand alone or both hands simultaneously. Stimuli were applied either (A) passively or (B) when subjects were asked to detect frequency changes that occurred to the right hand only. In experiment 1, task-relevant somatosensory stimulation led not only to enhanced contralateral SI activity, but also to a suppression of activity in the ipsilateral SI. In experiment 2, SI activation was enhanced when stimuli were task-relevant, compared to that observed with passive input. When stimuli were presented simultaneously to both hands, only those that were task-relevant increased SI activation. This was associated with recruitment of a network of cortical regions, including the right prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 9). We conclude that SI modulation is dependent on task relevancy and that this modulation may be regulated, at least in part, by the prefrontal cortex.
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