Measuring the effects of attention to individual fingertips in somatosensory cortex using ultra-high field (7T) fMRI

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Attention to sensory information has been shown to modulate the neuronal processing of that information. For example, visuospatial attention acts by modulating responses at retinotopically appropriate regions of visual cortex (Puckett and DeYoe, 2015; Tootell et al. 1998). Much less, however, is known about the neuronal processing associated with attending to other modalities of sensory information. One reason for this is that visual cortex is relatively large, and therefore easier to access non-invasively in humans using tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). With high-resolution fMRI, however, it is now possible to access smaller cortical areas such as primary somatosensory cortex (Martuzzi et al., 2014; Sanchez-Panchuelo et al., 2010; Schweisfurth et al. 2014; Schweizer et al. 2008). Here, we combined a novel experimental design and high-resolution fMRI at ultra-high field (7T) to measure the effects of attention to tactile stimulation in primary somatosensory cortex, S1. We find that attention modulates somatotopically appropriate regions of S1, and importantly, that this modulation can be measured at the level of the cortical representation of individual fingertips.

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