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Papers of the Week

Papers: 28 Oct 2023 - 3 Nov 2023

2023 Oct 30



BackWards – Unveiling the brain’s topographic organization of paraspinal sensory input.


Guekos A, Cole DM, Dörig M, Stämpfli P, Schibli L, Schuetz P, Schweinhardt P, Meier ML


Cortical reorganization and its potential pathological significance are being increasingly studied in musculoskeletal disorders such as chronic low back pain (CLBP) patients. However, detailed sensory-topographic maps of the human back are lacking, and a baseline characterization of such representations, reflecting the somatosensory organization of the healthy back, is needed before exploring potential sensory map reorganization. To this end, a novel pneumatic vibrotactile stimulation method was used to stimulate paraspinal sensory afferents, while studying their cortical representations in unprecedented detail. In 41 young healthy participants, vibrotactile stimulations at 20 Hz and 80 Hz were applied bilaterally at nine locations along the thoracolumbar axis while functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was performed. Model-based whole-brain searchlight representational similarity analysis (RSA) was used to investigate the organizational structure of brain activity patterns evoked by thoracolumbar sensory inputs. A model based on segmental distances best explained the similarity structure of brain activity patterns that were located in different areas of sensorimotor cortices, including the primary somatosensory and motor cortices and parts of the superior parietal cortex, suggesting that these brain areas process sensory input from the back in a “dermatomal” manner. The current findings provide a sound basis for testing the “cortical map reorganization theory” and its pathological relevance in CLBP.