Neural correlates of tactile detection: a combined magnetoencephalography and biophysically based computational modeling study

J Neurosci. 2007 Oct 3;27(40):10751-64. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0482-07.2007.


Previous reports conflict as to the role of primary somatosensory neocortex (SI) in tactile detection. We addressed this question in normal human subjects using whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) recording. We found that the evoked signal (0-175 ms) showed a prominent equivalent current dipole that localized to the anterior bank of the postcentral gyrus, area 3b of SI. The magnitude and timing of peaks in the SI waveform were stimulus amplitude dependent and predicted perception beginning at approximately 70 ms after stimulus. To make a direct and principled connection between the SI waveform and underlying neural dynamics, we developed a biophysically realistic computational SI model that contained excitatory and inhibitory neurons in supragranular and infragranular layers. The SI evoked response was successfully reproduced from the intracellular currents in pyramidal neurons driven by a sequence of lamina-specific excitatory input, consisting of output from the granular layer (approximately 25 ms), exogenous input to the supragranular layers (approximately 70 ms), and a second wave of granular output (approximately 135 ms). The model also predicted that SI correlates of perception reflect stronger and shorter-latency supragranular and late granular drive during perceived trials. These findings strongly support the view that signatures of tactile detection are present in human SI and are mediated by local neural dynamics induced by lamina-specific synaptic drive. Furthermore, our model provides a biophysically realistic solution to the MEG signal and can predict the electrophysiological correlates of human perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology
  • Time Factors
  • Touch / physiology*