High-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging mapping of noxious heat and tactile activations along the central sulcus in New World monkeys

Li M. Chen, Barbara C. Dillenburger, Feng Wang, Robert M. Friedman, Malcom J. Avison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This study mapped the fine-scale functional representation of tactile and noxious heat stimuli in cortical areas around the central sulcus of anesthetized squirrel monkeys by using high-resolution blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI at 9.4T. Noxious heat (47.5 °C) stimulation of digits evoked multiple spatially distinct and focal BOLD activations. Consistent activations were observed in areas 3a, 3b, 1, and 2, whereas less frequent activation was present in M1. Compared with tactile activations, thermal nociceptive activations covered more area and formed multiple foci within each functional area. In general, noxious heat activations in area 3b did not colocalize with tactile responses. The spatial relationships of heat and tactile activations in areas 3a and 1/2 varied across animals. Subsequent electrophysiological mapping confirmed that the evoked heat and tactile BOLD signals were somatotopically appropriate. The magnitude and temporal profiles of the BOLD signals to noxious heat stimuli differed across cortical areas. Comparatively late-peaking but stronger signals were observed in areas 3b and 2, whereas earlier-peaking but weaker signals were observed in areas 3a, 1, and M1. In sum, this study not only confirmed the involvement of somatosensory areas of 3a, 3b, and 1, but also identified the engagements of area 2 and M1 in the processing of heat nociceptive inputs. Differential BOLD response profiles of the individual cortical areas along the central sulcus suggest that these areas play different roles in the encoding of nociceptive inputs. Thermal nociceptive and tactile inputs may be processed by different clusters of neurons in different areas. To critically bridge animal and human pain studies, human fMRI was related to primate fMRI and electrophysiology of nociceptive processing, examining the functional role of the primary somatosensory cortex in heat nociception and demonstrating that subregion areas 3a, 3b, 1, 2, and M1 are responsive to noxious heat stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-532
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional MRI
  • Hand
  • Noxious heat
  • Primary somatosensory cortex
  • Primates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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