Background: The primary sensory cortex (S1) in the postcentral gyrus is comprised of four areas that each contain a body map, where the representation of the hand is located with the thumb most laterally, anteriorly and inferiorly and the little finger most medially, posteriorly and superiorly. Previous studies on somatotopy using functional MRI have either used low field strength, have included a small number of subjects or failed to attribute activations to any area within S1. In the present study we included twenty subjects, who were investigated at 3 Tesla (T). We focused specifically on Brodmann area 3b, which neurons have discrete receptive fields with a potentially more clearcut somatotopic organisation. The spatial distribution for all fingers' peak activation was determined and group as well as individual analysis was performed.
Results: Activation maps from 18 subjects were of adequate quality; in 17 subjects activations were present for all fingers and these data were further analysed. In the group analysis the thumb was located most laterally, anteriorly and inferiorly with the other fingers sequentially positioned more medially, posteriorly and superiorly. At the individual level this somatotopic relationship was present for the thumb and little finger, with a higher variability for the fingers in between. The Euclidian distance between the first and fifth finger was 17.2 mm, between the first and second finger 10.6 mm and between the remaining fingers on average 6.3 mm.
Conclusion: Results from the group analysis, that is both the location of the fingers and the Euclidian distances, are well comparable to results from previous studies using a wide range of modalities. On the subject level the spatial localisation of the fingers showed a less stringent somatotopic order so that the location of a finger in a single subject cannot be predicted from the group result.