Although qualitative reports about somatotopic representation of fingers in the human motor cortex exist, up to now no study could provide clear statistical evidence. The goal of the present study was to reinvestigate finger motor somatotopy by means of a thorough investigation of standardized movements of the index and little finger of the right hand. Using high resolution fMRI at 3 Tesla, blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) responses in a group of 26 subjects were repeatedly measured to achieve reliable statistical results. The center of mass of all activated voxels within the primary motor cortex was calculated for each finger and each run. Results of all runs were averaged to yield an individual index and little finger representation for each subject. The mean center of mass localizations for all subjects were then submitted to a paired t test. Results show a highly significant though small scale somatotopy of fingerspecific activation patterns in the order indicated by Penfields motor homunculus. In addition, considerable overlap of finger specific BOLD responses was found. Comparing various methods of analysis, the mean center of mass distance for the two fingers was 2--3 mm with overlapping voxels included and 4--5 mm with overlapping voxels excluded. Our data may be best understood in the context of the work of Schieber (1999) who recently described overlapping somatotopic gradients in lesion studies with humans.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.