Ultra-high-field (UHF) MRI is ideally suited for structural and functional imaging of the brain. High-resolution structural MRI can be used to map the anatomical boundaries between functional domains of the brain by identifying changes related to the pattern of myelination within cortical gray matter, opening up the possibility to study the relationship between functional domains and underlying structure in vivo. In a recent study, we demonstrated the correspondence between functional (based on retinotopic mapping) and structural (based on changes in T2(⁎)-weighted images linked to myelination) parcellations of the primary visual cortex (V1) in vivo at 7T (Sanchez-Panchuelo et al., 2012b). Here, we take advantage of the improved BOLD CNR and high spatial resolution achievable at 7T to study regional structural variations across the functionally defined areas within the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in individual subjects. Using a traveling wave fMRI paradigm to map the internal somatotopic representation of the index, middle, and ring fingers in S1, we were able to identify multiple map reversals at the tip and base, corresponding to the boundaries between Brodmann areas 3a, 3b, 1 and 2. Based on high resolution structural MRI data acquired in the same subjects, we inspected these functionally-parcellated Brodmann areas for differences in cortical thickness and MR contrast measures (magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) and signal intensity in phase sensitive inversion recovery (PSIR) images) that are sensitive to myelination. Consistent area-related differences in cortical thickness and MTR/PSIR measurements were found across subjects. However these measures did not have sufficient sensitivity to allow definition of areal boundaries.
Keywords: High-resolution MRI; Somatosensory cortex; Structure and function.
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