A Whole-Body Sensory-Motor Gradient is Revealed in the Medial Wall of the Parietal Lobe

Noa Zeharia, Shir Hofstetter, Tamar Flash, Amir Amedi

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

In 1954, Penfield and Jasper's findings based on electric stimulation of epileptic patients led them to hypothesize that a sensory representation of the body should be found in the precuneus. They termed this representation the "supplementary sensory" area and emphasized that the exact form of this homunculus could not be specified on the basis of their results. In the decades that followed, their prediction was neglected. The precuneus was found to be involved in numerous motor, cognitive and visual processes, but no work was done on its somatotopic organization. Here, we used a periodic experimental design in which 16 human subjects (eight women) moved 20 body parts to investigate the possible body part topography of the precuneus. We found an anterior-to-posterior, dorsal-to-ventral, toes-to-tongue gradient in a mirror orientation to the SMA. When inspecting body-part-specific functional connectivity, we found differential connectivity patterns for the different body parts to the primary and secondary motor areas and parietal and visual areas, and a shared connectivity to the extrastriate body area, another topographically organized area. We suggest that a whole-body gradient can be found in the precuneus and is connected to multiple brain areas with different connectivity for different body parts. Its exact role and relations to the other known functions of the precuneus such as self-processing, motor imagery, reaching, visuomotor and other body-mind functions should be investigated.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Using fMRI, as well as sensitive spectral analysis, we found a new homunculus in the precuneus: an anterior-to-posterior, dorsal-to-ventral, toes-to-tongue somatotopic gradient in a mirror orientation to the SMA. When inspecting body-part-specific functional connectivity, we found differential connectivity patterns for the different body parts to the primary and secondary motor areas, parietal and visual areas, and a shared connectivity to the extrastriate body area, another topographically organized area. We suggest that a whole-body gradient can be found in the precuneus and is connected to multiple brain areas in a body-part-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7882-7892
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Volume39
Issue number40
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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