Mechanosensitivity and Neural Adaptation in Human Somatosensory System
Venkatesan, Lalit Kumar
University of Kansas
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Magnetoencephalography (MEG) was utilized to characterize the adaptation in the somatosensory cortical network due to repeated cutaneous tactile stimulation applied unilaterally on the face and hand using a custom-built pneumatic stimulator called the TAC-Cell. Face stimulation invoked neuromagnetic responses reflecting cortical activity in the contralateral primary somatosensory cortex (SI), while hand stimulation resulted in robust contralateral SI and posterior parietal cortex (PPC) activation. There was also activity observed in regions of the secondary somatosensory cortical areas (SII), although with a reduced amplitude and higher variability across subjects. There was a significant difference in adaptation rates between SI, and higher-order sensory cortices like the PPC for hand stimulation. Adaptation was also significantly dependent on the stimulus frequency and pulse index number within the stimulus train for both hand and face stimulation. The latency of the peak responses was significantly dependent on stimulus site and response component (SI, PPC). The difference in the latency of peak SI and PPC responses can be reflective of a hierarchical serial-processing network in the somatosensory cortex. Age- and sex-related changes of vibrotactile sensitivity in the orofacial and hand skin surfaces of healthy adults was demonstrated using an established psychophysical protocol. Vibrotactile threshold sensitivity increased as a function of age for finger stimulation, but remained unaltered for the face. Increase in the finger threshold sensitivity is due to age-related changes in the number and morphology of Pacinian corpuscles (absent in the face). Vibrotactile threshold sensitivity is significantly dependent on stimulation site, stimulus frequency, and sex of the participant. These differences are presumably due to dissimilarities in the type and density of mechanoreceptors present in the face and hand. A novel-method was developed to couple the use of fiber-optic displacement sensors with the pneumatic stimulator built in our laboratory called the TAC-Cell. This displacement sensor which is commonly used in industrial applications was successfully utilized to characterize the skin response to TAC-Cell stimulation. Skin displacement was significantly dependent on input stimulus amplitudes and varied as a function of the participants' sex. Power spectrum analysis and rise-fall time measurement of the skin-displacement showed that the TAC-Cell stimulus consists of a spectrally rich, high velocity signal that is capable of evoking a cortical response due to stimulation of the medial-lemniscus and trigeminal pathways.
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