Auditory Frequency Representations in Human Somatosensory Cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2018 Nov 1;28(11):3908-3921. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhx255.


Recent studies have challenged the traditional notion of modality-dedicated cortical systems by showing that audition and touch evoke responses in the same sensory brain regions. While much of this work has focused on somatosensory responses in auditory regions, fewer studies have investigated sound responses and representations in somatosensory regions. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we measured BOLD signal changes in participants performing an auditory frequency discrimination task and characterized activation patterns related to stimulus frequency using both univariate and multivariate analysis approaches. Outside of bilateral temporal lobe regions, we observed robust and frequency-specific responses to auditory stimulation in classically defined somatosensory areas. Moreover, using representational similarity analysis to define the relationships between multi-voxel activation patterns for all sound pairs, we found clear similarity patterns for auditory responses in the parietal lobe that correlated significantly with perceptual similarity judgments. Our results demonstrate that auditory frequency representations can be distributed over brain regions traditionally considered to be dedicated to somatosensation. The broad distribution of auditory and tactile responses over parietal and temporal regions reveals a number of candidate brain areas that could support general temporal frequency processing and mediate the extensive and robust perceptual interactions between audition and touch.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult