Within-limb somatotopic organization in human SI and parietal operculum for the leg: an fMRI study.
ABSTRACT Somatotopic organizations in human somatosensory cortex (SI and SII) for scattered portions of the leg have not been systematically observed with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In this research we compared functional representations in the contralateral SI and bilateral parietal operculum (that contained subregions OP1, 3-4 of SII and OP2) of four acupoints in right leg in proximal-distal and medial-lateral arrangement. The results were: (1) somatotopy of SI demonstrated a lateral-to-medial and inferior-to-superior pattern when acupoints were shifting from proximal to distal or from medial to lateral; (2) the contralateral OP1 also showed a clear somatotopic organization for the four separated leg portions, and the ipsilateral OP1 showed a similar pattern to the contralateral OP1, thus arrangements of responses in the two areas were mirror-symmetric against y-axis; (3) the contralateral OP2 showed a somatotopic organization when acupoints shifting from proximal to distal, while the contralateral OP3 presented a trend of somatotopy opposite to that of the contralateral OP1. These results first show definite within-leg somatotopy of human SI for scattered leg portions in medial-lateral arrangement using fMRI. Within-limb somatotopic organization of OP1 for leg portions arranging from proximal to distal as well as from medial to lateral, and somatotopy of OP2 for leg portions arranging from proximal to distal, are also shown for the first time. Our results also reinforce the proposal of a somatotopic map existing in human OP3, and indicating a fourth somatotopic map in OP2 in human parietal operculum, which suggests that OP 2 is not just a vestibular area. In addition, separable activations in somatosensory cortex induced by adjacent acupoints should play a fundamental role in acupoint-specific effects in the brain.