Single subject and group whole-brain fMRI mapping of male genital sensation at 7 Tesla

Sven P R Luijten, Ilse M Groenendijk, Joan C Holstege, Chris I De Zeeuw, Wietske van der Zwaag, Bertil F M Blok

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Processing of genital sensations in the central nervous system of humans is still poorly understood. Current knowledge is mainly based on neuroimaging studies using electroencephalography (EEG), magneto-encephalography (MEG), and 1.5- or 3- Tesla (T) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), all of which suffer from limited spatial resolution and sensitivity, thereby relying on group analyses to reveal significant data. Here, we studied the impact of passive, yet non-arousing, tactile stimulation of the penile shaft using ultra-high field 7T fMRI. With this approach, penile stimulation evoked significant activations in distinct areas of the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices (S1 & S2), premotor cortex, insula, midcingulate gyrus, prefrontal cortex, thalamus and cerebellum, both at single subject and group level. Passive tactile stimulation of the feet, studied for control, also evoked significant activation in S1, S2, insula, thalamus and cerebellum, but predominantly, yet not exclusively, in areas that could be segregated from those associated with penile stimulation. Evaluation of the whole-brain activation patterns and connectivity analyses indicate that genital sensations following passive stimulation are, unlike those following feet stimulation, processed in both sensorimotor and affective regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2487
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2020

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