Body Topography Parcellates Human Sensory and Motor Cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2017 Jul 1;27(7):3790-3805. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhx026.


The cytoarchitectonic map as proposed by Brodmann currently dominates models of human sensorimotor cortical structure, function, and plasticity. According to this model, primary motor cortex, area 4, and primary somatosensory cortex, area 3b, are homogenous areas, with the major division lying between the two. Accumulating empirical and theoretical evidence, however, has begun to question the validity of the Brodmann map for various cortical areas. Here, we combined in vivo cortical myelin mapping with functional connectivity analyses and topographic mapping techniques to reassess the validity of the Brodmann map in human primary sensorimotor cortex. We provide empirical evidence that area 4 and area 3b are not homogenous, but are subdivided into distinct cortical fields, each representing a major body part (the hand and the face). Myelin reductions at the hand-face borders are cortical layer-specific, and coincide with intrinsic functional connectivity borders as defined using large-scale resting state analyses. Our data extend the Brodmann model in human sensorimotor cortex and suggest that body parts are an important organizing principle, similar to the distinction between sensory and motor processing.

Keywords: embodiment; hand–face border; parcellation; plasticity; septa.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Face / innervation
  • Female
  • Hand / innervation
  • Human Body*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult