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The Role Of The Primary Somatosensory Cortex In An Auditorily Paced Finger Tapping Task

B. Pollok, K. Müller, G. Aschersleben, A. Schnitzler, W. Prinz
Published 2004 · Psychology, Medicine

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It has been suggested that a simple auditorily paced finger tapping task is associated with three tap-related neuromagnetic sources in the primary sensorimotor cortex contralateral to the tapping hand. Since a first source peaking at ~100 ms before tap-onset most likely represents activation of the primary motor cortex (M1) due to the motor command, a second source localized in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) peaking around tap-onset could be due to kinesthetic feedback of the finger movement. A third source peaking at ~100 ms after tap-onset is also localized in the primary somatosensory cortex but inferior to the first S1 source (S1 inferior). The functional meaning of this source is still under debate. On the one hand it has been argued that S1 inferior represents the neuromagnetic correlate of tactile-kinesthetic feedback due to finger-taps and movements. On the other hand the functional meaning of this source could go beyond the sole processing of somatosensory feedback monitoring the temporal distance between tap and pacer (click) to keep the subject in time with the external event. This hypothesis is based on the observation that (1) S1 inferior seems to be coupled equally well to tap and click and (2) that this source might be triggered by the last event (i.e. tap or click). In the present study we re-examined this hypothesis by using a 122-channel whole-head neuromagnetometer. Eight healthy subjects synchronized their right index finger taps to an auditory pacing signal presented with a constant interstimulus interval of 800 ms. To test the hypothesis that the last event triggers S1 inferior we compared neuromagnetic activity following the tap as the first and the last event. In the auditorily paced finger tapping task usually the tap leads over the click (negative asynchrony). Therefore, the tap usually occurs as the first event. Since it has been shown that delivering additional feedback at the time of tap-onset results in a reduced negative asynchrony, in a second run auditory feedback was presented at tap-onset to enhance the number of positive asynchronies (i.e. the tap is the last event). Since no latency differences of S1 inferior associated with positive and negative asynchronies were found, results from the present study do not support the assumption that S1 inferior is triggered by the last event. Moreover, the amplitude of S1 inferior is significantly reduced following positive asynchronies as compared to negative asynchronies. Additionally, tap duration (i.e. the time between tap-onset and tap-offset) is significantly reduced while subjects produce positive asynchronies. Therefore, the amplitude of S1 inferior seems to be modulated by movement kinematics. This observation agrees well with the idea that activation of S1 is solely associated with the processing of somatosensory information. To conclude, our data contradict the hypothesis of an evaluation process localized in the primary somatosensory cortex and substantiate the idea that S1 inferior exclusively represents the processing of somatosensory feedback information.
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