Abstract

This study examined the cortical representation of vibrotactile detection in humans using event-related fMRI paired with psychophysics. Suprathreshold vibrotactile stimulation activated several areas, including primary (SI) and second somatosensory cortices (SII/PV). For threshold-level stimuli, poststimulus activity in contralateral and ipsilateral SII/PV was the best correlate of detection success. In these areas, evoked signals on hit trials were significantly greater than on missed trials in all participants, and the relative activity level across stimulation amplitudes matched perceptual performance. Activity in the anterior insula and superior temporal gyrus also correlated with hits and misses, suggesting that a “ventral stream” of somatosensory representations may play a crucial role in detection. In contrast, poststimulus activity in Area SI was not well correlated with perception and showed an overall negative response profile for threshold-level stimulation. A different correlate of detection success was, however, observed in SI. Activity in this representation immediately before stimulus onset predicted performance, a finding that was unique to SI. These findings emphasize the potential role of SII/PV in detection, the importance of state dynamics in SI for perception, and the possibility that changes in the temporal and spatial pattern of SI activity may be essential to the optimal representation of threshold-level stimuli for detection.

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