Modulatory effects on human sensorimotor cortex by whole-hand afferent electrical stimulation

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To investigate the effect of electrical stimulation of the nerve afferents of the hand on cortical activity elicited by whole-hand subthreshold stimulation for sensation in healthy human subjects.


Ten healthy volunteers were studied using BOLD-fMRI with 1) a test motor-task with finger-to-thumb tapping of the left hand, 2) a whole-hand afferent electrical stimulation of the left hand below the sensory level for sensation for 30 minutes, 3) a second fMRI run with the same paradigm as in the test motor-task immediately after electrical stimulation, and 4) a final identical fMRI run 2 hours post-stimulation to test the cortical changes induced by electrical stimulation. Experiments were carried out on a 1.5 T MR scanner and for fMRI echoplanar sequences were used. Data analysis was performed with SPM99.


An increase of movement-related responses was seen within the primary motor and primary somatosensory areas of both hemispheres when comparing the test motor-task with the motor-task after electrical stimulation relative to the baseline or sham stimulation. Two hours post-stimulation the modulatory effects of mesh-glove stimulation diminished to baseline level except within the contralateral primary motor region.


The increased BOLD response spatially localized within the sensorimotor cortex reflects an increase in neuronal activity that may provide augmented neuronal excitability.

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