Infoscience

Journal article

Digit somatotopy in the human cerebellum: A 7T fMRI study

The representation of the human body in the human cerebellum is still relatively unknown, compared to the well-studied homunculus in the primary somatosensory cortex. The investigation of the body representation in the cerebellum and its somatotopic organisation is complicated because of the relatively small dimensions of the cerebellum, compared to the cerebrum. Somatotopically organised whole-body homunculi have previously been reported in both humans and rats. However, whether individual digits are represented in the cerebellum in a somatotopically organised way is much less clear. In this study, the high spatial resolution and high sensitivity to the blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal of 7T fMRI were employed to study the BOLD responses in the human cerebellum to the stroking of the skin of individual digits, the hand and forearm. For the first time, a coarse somatotopic organisation of the digits, ordered from D1-D5, could be visualised in individual human subjects in both the anterior (lobule V) and the posterior (lobule VIII) lobes of the cerebellum using a somatosensory stimulus. The somatotopic gradient in lobule V was found consistently in the posterior to anterior direction, with the thumb most posterior, while the direction of the somatotopic gradient in lobule VIII differed between subjects. No somatotopic organisation was found in Crus I. A comparison of the digit patches with the hand patch revealed that the digit regions are completely covered by the hand region in both the anterior and posterior lobes of the cerebellum, in a non-somatotopic manner. These results demonstrate the promise of ultra-high field, high-resolution fMRI for studies of the cerebellum.

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