Task-relevance and temporal synchrony between tactile and visual stimuli modulates cortical activity and motor performance during sensory-guided movement
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Sensory-guided movements require the analysis and integration of task-relevant sensory inputs from multiple modalities. This article sought to: (1) assess effects of intermodal temporal synchrony upon modulation of primary somatosensory cortex (S1) during continuous sensorimotor transformations, (2) identify cortical areas sensitive to temporal synchrony, and (3) provide further insight into the reduction of S1 activity during continuous vibrotactile tracking previously observed by our group (Meehan and Staines 2007: Brain Res 1138:148-158). Functional MRI was acquired while participants received simultaneous bimodal (visuospatial/vibrotactile) stimulation and continuously tracked random changes in one modality, by applying graded force to a force-sensing resistor. Effects of intermodal synchrony were investigated, unbeknownst to the participants, by varying temporal synchrony so that sensorimotor transformations dictated by the distracter modality either conflicted (low synchrony) or supplemented (high synchrony) those of the target modality. Temporal synchrony differentially influenced tracking performance dependent upon tracking modality. Physiologically, synchrony did not influence S1 activation; however, the insula and superior temporal gyrus were influenced regardless of tracking modality. The left temporal-parietal junction demonstrated increased activation during high synchrony specific to vibrotactile tracking. The superior parietal lobe and superior temporal gyrus demonstrated increased activation during low synchrony specific to visuospatial tracking. As previously reported, vibrotactile tracking resulted in decreased S1 activation relative to when it was task-irrelevant. We conclude that while temporal synchrony is represented at higher levels than S1, interactions between inter- and intramodal mechanisms determines sensory processing at the level of S1.
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