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Imaging human cortical responses to intraneural microstimulation using magnetoencephalography

Journal article
Authors G. C. O'Neill
Roger H. Watkins
Rochelle Ackerley
E. L. Barratt
A. Sengupta
M. Asghar
R. M. S. Panchuelo
M. J. Brookes
P. M. Glover
Johan Wessberg
S. T. Francis
Published in NeuroImage
Volume 189
Pages 329-340
ISSN 1053-8119
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology
Pages 329-340
Language en
Keywords Magnetoencephalography, Somatosensory cortex, Intraneural microstimulation, Single-unit, surface-based analysis, human hand, evoked-potentials, beta rhythms, meg, oscillations, stimulation, modulation, synchronization, attention, Neurosciences & Neurology, Radiology
Subject categories Radiology


The sensation of touch in the glabrous skin of the human hand is conveyed by thousands of fast-conducting mechanoreceptive afferents, which can be categorised into four distinct types. The spiking properties of these afferents in the periphery in response to varied tactile stimuli are well-characterised, but relatively little is known about the spatiotemporal properties of the neural representations of these different receptor types in the human cortex. Here, we use the novel methodological combination of single-unit intraneural microstimulation (INMS) with magnetoencephalography (MEG) to localise cortical representations of individual touch afferents in humans, by measuring the extracranial magnetic fields from neural currents. We found that by assessing the modulation of the beta (13-30 Hz) rhythm during single-unit INMS, significant changes in oscillatory amplitude occur in the contralateral primary somatosensory cortex within and across a group of fast adapting type I mechanoreceptive afferents, which corresponded well to the induced response from matched vibrotactile stimulation. Combining the spatiotemporal specificity of MEG with the selective single-unit stimulation of INMS enables the interrogation of the central representations of different aspects of tactile afferent signalling within the human cortices. The fundamental finding that single-unit INMS ERD responses are robust and consistent with natural somatosensory stimuli will permit us to more dynamically probe the central nervous system responses in humans, to address questions about the processing of touch from the different classes of mechanoreceptive afferents and the effects of varying the stimulus frequency and patterning.

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