Three studies were carried out to assess the applicability of fMRI at 3.0 T to analysis of vibrotaction in humans. A novel piezoelectric device provided clean sinusoidal stimulation at 80 Hz, which was initially applied in separate runs within a scanning session to digits 2 and 5 of the left hand in eight subjects, using a birdcage RF (volume) coil. Significant clusters of activation were found in the primary somatosensory cortex (SI), the secondary somatosensory cortex (SII), subcentral gyrus, the precentral gyrus, posterior insula, posterior parietal regions (area 5), and the posterior cingulate. Digit separation in SI was possible in all subjects and the activation sites reflected the known lateral position of the representation of digit 2 relative to that of digit 5. A second study carried out in six additional subjects using a surface coil, replicated the main contralateral activation patterns detected in study one and further improved the discrimination of the digits in SI. Significant digit separation was also found in SII and in the posterior insula. A third study to investigate the frequency dependence of the response focused on the effect of an increase in vibrotactile frequency from 30 to 80 Hz, with both frequencies applied to digit 2 during the same scanning session in four new subjects. A significant increase in the number of pixels activated within both SII and the posterior insula was found, while the number of pixels activated in SI declined. No significant change in signal intensity with frequencies was found in any of the activated areas.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.