Somatosensory discrimination training may modulate cognitive processes, such as movement planning and monitoring, which can be useful during active movements. The aim of the study was to assess the effect of somatosensory discrimination training on brain functional activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during motor and sensory tasks in healthy subjects. Thirty-nine healthy young subjects were randomized into two groups: the experimental group underwent somatosensory discrimination training consisting of shape, surface and two-point distance discrimination; and the control group performed a simple object manipulation. At baseline and after 2 weeks of training, subjects underwent sensorimotor evaluations and fMRI tasks consisting of right-hand tactile stimulation, manipulation of a simple object, and complex right-hand motor sequence execution. Right-hand dexterity improved in both groups, but only the experimental group showed improvements in all manual dexterity tests. After training, the experimental group showed: decreased activation of the ipsilateral sensorimotor areas during the tactile stimulation task; increased activation of the contralateral postcentral gyrus and thalamus bilaterally during the manipulation task; and a reduced recruitment of the ipsilateral pre/postcentral gyri and an increased activation of the basal ganglia and cerebellum contralaterally during the complex right-hand motor task. In healthy subjects, sensory discrimination training was associated with lateralization of brain activity in sensorimotor areas during sensory and motor tasks. Further studies are needed to investigate the usefulness of this training in motor rehabilitation of patients with focal lesions in the central nervous system.
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Conflict of interest
E. Sarasso, F. Temporiti, P. Adamo, F. Piccolo, R. Gatti report no disclosures.
F. Agosta is Section Editor of NeuroImage: Clinical; has received speaker honoraria from ExceMED – Excellence in Medical Education and Biogen Idec; and receives or has received research supports from the Italian Ministry of Health, AriSLA (Fondazione Italiana di Ricerca per la SLA), and the European Research Council.
M. Copetti has received compensation for consulting and/or serving on advisory boards from Teva Pharmaceuticals and Biogen Idec.
M. Filippi is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Neurology; serves on a scientific advisory board for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; has received compensation for consulting services and/or speaking activities from Biogen Idec, ExceMED, Novartis, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; and receives research support from Biogen Idec, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Novartis, Italian Ministry of Health, Fondazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla, Cure PSP, Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), the Jacques and Gloria Gossweiler Foundation (Switzerland), and ARiSLA (Fondazione Italiana di Ricerca per la SLA).
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Sarasso, E., Agosta, F., Temporiti, F. et al. Brain motor functional changes after somatosensory discrimination training. Brain Imaging and Behavior 12, 1011–1021 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-017-9763-2
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Healthy volunteers
- Sensorimotor cortex
- Touch perception
- Physical therapy