Neural networks active during tactile form perception: Common and differential activity during macrospatial and microspatial tasks

Mark R. Stoesz, Minming Zhang, Valerie D. Weisser, S. C. Prather, Hui Mao, K. Sathian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Prior studies have shown that tactile perception recruits activity not only in somatosensory but also in visual cortical areas. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the distribution of neural activity during tactile perception of 2D form. In a macrospatial form task, raised letters (uppercase T and V) were presented upside-down. In a microspatial form task, a bar, either with or without a gap, was presented. Stimuli were applied to the immobilized right index fingerpad. Six neurologically normal volunteers were studied in a block design paradigm, with alternating blocks of rest and covert discrimination between the two alternatives for a task. Each task was studied in a separate run. Contrasting macrospatial form discrimination against rest revealed activity in an extensive, bilateral network of cortical and subcortical regions, including areas of somatosensory cortex and the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), occipito-temporal cortex, dorsal and ventral premotor cortex, medial superior frontal cortex, lateral inferior frontal cortex, thalamus and cerebellar hemispheres. Contrasting (microspatial) gap detection against rest showed activity in a similar network, with the notable exception of the occipito-temporal cortical regions. A direct contrast between the two tasks yielded greater activity for the macrospatial than microspatial task in these occipito-temporal regions bilaterally, and also in foci near the right IPS and in the right cerebellar hemisphere. The occipito-temporal cortical activations were in the lateral occipital complex, a part of the ventral visual pathway active during visual form perception. Thus, macrospatial form perception preferentially recruits this region of extrastriate visual cortex, compared to microspatial form perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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