Multiple parietal operculum subdivisions in humans: Tactile activation maps

Harold Burton, Robert J. Sinclair, Jason R. Wingert, Donna L. Dierker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We focused the present analysis on blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses evoked in four architectonic subdivisions of human posterior parietal operculum (PO) during two groups of tasks involving either vibrotactile stimulation or rubbing different surfaces against the right index finger pad. Activity localized in previously defined parietal opercular subdivisions, OP 1-4, was co-registered to a standard cortical surface-based atlas. Four vibrotactile stimulation tasks involved attention to the parameters of paired vibrations: (1) detect rare target trials when vibration frequencies matched; (2) select the presentation order of the vibration with a higher frequency or (3) longer duration; and (4) divide attention between frequency and duration before selecting stimulus order. Surface stimulation tasks involved various discriminations of different surfaces: (1) smooth surfaces required no discrimination; (2) paired horizontal gratings required determination of the direction of roughness change; (3) paired shapes entailed identifying matched and unmatched shapes; (4) raised letters involved letter recognition. The results showed activity in multiple somatosensory subdivisions bilaterally in human PO that are plausibly homologues of somatosensory areas previously described in animals. All tasks activated OP 1, but in vibrotactile tasks foci were more restricted compared to moving surface tasks. Greater spatial extents of activity especially in OP 1 and 4 when surfaces rubbed the finger pad did not support previously reported somatotopy of the second finger representation in "S2". The varied activity distributions across OP subdivisions may reflect low-level perceptual and/or cognitive processing differences between tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalSomatosensory and Motor Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • Human parietal cortex
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Touch


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