PET-based investigation of cerebral activation following intranasal trigeminal stimulation

Hum Brain Mapp. 2009 Apr;30(4):1100-4. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20573.


The present study aimed to investigate cerebral activation following intranasal trigeminal chemosensory stimulation using O15-H2O-PET. A total of 12 healthy male participants underwent a PET scan presented with four scanning conditions; two left-sided intranasal CO(2)-stimuli and two matched baseline conditions consisting of odorless air. CO(2) was used as it produces burning and stinging sensations. Stimulation started 20 s before intravenous injection of the isotope and lasted for the first 60 s of the 5 min scan time. A comparison between CO(2) and baseline showed a pronounced activation of the trigeminal projection area at the base of the postcentral gyrus (primary and secondary somatosensory cortex) which was more intense for the right hemisphere, contralateral to the side of stimulation. In addition, activation was also found in the piriform cortex which is typically activated following odor presentation and thus thought of as primary olfactory cortex. In conclusion, and in line with previously published work, our data suggest that intranasal trigeminal stimulation not only activates somatosensory projection areas, but that it also leads to activation in cerebral areas associated with the processing of olfactory information. This may be interpreted in terms of the intimate relation between the intranasal chemosensory systems.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Carbon Dioxide / pharmacology
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olfactory Pathways / drug effects
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiology*


  • Carbon Dioxide