Cortical brain responses during passive nonpainful median nerve stimulation at low frequencies (0.5-4 Hz): An fMRI study

Antonio Ferretti, Claudio Babiloni, Donatello Arienzo, Cosimo Del Gratta, Paolo Maria Rossini, Armando Tartaro, Gian Luca Romani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Previous findings have shown that the human somatosensory cortical systems that are activated by passive nonpainful electrical stimulation include the contralateral primary somatosensory area (SI), bilateral secondary somatosensory area (SII), and bilateral insula. The present study tested the hypothesis that these areas have different sensitivities to stimulation frequency in the condition of passive stimulation. Functional MRI (fMRI) was recorded in 24 normal volunteers during nonpainful electrical median nerve stimulations at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 Hz repetition rates in separate recording blocks in pseudorandom order. Results of the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) effect showed that the contralateral SI, the bilateral SII, and the bilateral insula were active during these stimulations. As a major finding, only the contralateral SI increased its activation with the increase of the stimulus frequency at the mentioned range. The fact that nonpainful median-nerve electrical stimuli at 4 Hz induces a larger BOLD response is of interest both for basic research and clinical applications in subjects unable to perform cognitive tasks in the fMRI scanner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-653
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Median nerve electrical stimulation
  • Secondary somatosensory cortex (SII)
  • Stimulus frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology

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