Anterior parietal somatosensory areas 3a, 3b, 1, and 2 generally contain cells with receptive fields that are on the contralateral body. However, inputs from midline structures such as the mouth must be uniquely integrated across the midline. This hypothesis is supported by studies of these fields from nonhuman primates that demonstrate ipsilateral representations of oral structures. We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to examine the cortical representations of the lips and tongue in humans and to examine the time course of interaction of bilateral inputs from these structures. Ipsilateral activation was observed in response to tactile stimulation of the upper lip in 69% of cases, the lower lip in 85% of cases, and the tongue in 88% of cases. In the contralateral hemisphere, the map of oral structures tended to be in agreement with that from nonhuman primates, although variation was large and source locations were not statistically significantly different from each other. There were no differences in latency of activation for ipsi-vs. contralateral responses (about 30 msec), and cortical sources from ipsi-and contralateral stimulation tended to be located together. Differential activation for bilateral vs. unilateral stimulation occurred later than activation in S1, around 110 msec, and was localized to the upper bank of the Sylvian sulcus. Our findings indicate that, unlike nonhuman primates, humans have an ipsilateral representation of the lips in 3b/1, possibly related to the precise manipulation necessary for the articulation of speech. The distinct pattern of differential activation for uni-vs. bilateral stimulation suggests a unique neural mechanism of integration across the midline for inputs from the mouth.
- Area 3b
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