Saccular stimulation of the human cortex: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Neurosci Lett. 2007 Aug 9;423(1):68-72. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2007.06.036. Epub 2007 Jul 4.


Recent imaging studies have reported the projection of semicircular canal signals onto wide regions of the cerebral cortex but little is known about otolith projections onto the cerebral cortex. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the activation of the cortex by loud clicks that selectively stimulate the sacculus. Twelve normal volunteers were presented with auditory stimuli via an earphone containing a piezo electric element. High-intensity [maximum volume of 120 dB (SPL)] or low-intensity [maximum volume of 110 dB (SPL)] clicks were delivered at a frequency of 1 Hz and lasted 1 ms. We first checked that the high-intensity, but not low-intensity, clicks stimulated the sacculus by determining the vestibular evoked myogenic potentials. We then analyzed two task conditions (high- and low-intensity clicks) in a boxcar paradigm. We obtained gradient echo echo-planar images by using a 1.5 T MRI system. We analyzed the fMRI time series data with SPM2. High-intensity clicks activated wide areas of the cortex, namely, the frontal lobe (prefrontal cortex, premotor cortex, and frontal eye fields), parietal lobe (the region around the intraparietal sulcus, temporo-parietal junction, and paracentral lobule), and cingulate cortex. These areas are similar to those reported in previous imaging studies that analyzed the cortical responses to the activation of the semicircular canals. Thus, semicircular canal and otolith/saccular signals may be processed in similar regions of the human cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Echo-Planar Imaging
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Otolithic Membrane / physiology
  • Saccule and Utricle / physiology*
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology