MEG-compatible pneumatic stimulator to elicit passive finger and toe movements

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Magnetoencephalographic (MEG) signals recorded from the primary sensorimotor (SM1) cortex are coherent with kinematics of both active and passive finger movements. The coherence mainly reflects movement-related proprioceptive afference to the cortex. Here we describe a novel MEG-compatible stimulator to generate computer-controlled passive finger and toe movements that can be used as stimuli in functional brain-imaging experiments.

The movements are produced by pneumatic artificial muscle (PAM), elastic actuator that shortens with increasing air pressure. To test the applicability of the stimulator to functional brain-imaging, 4-min trains of passive repetitive 5-mm flexion-extension movements of the right and left index finger and the right hallux were produced at 3 Hz while the subject's brain activity was measured with whole-scalp MEG and finger or toe kinematics with an accelerometer. In all ten subjects studied, statistically significant coherence (up to 0.78) occurred between the accelerometer and MEG signals at the movement frequency or its first harmonic. Sources of coherent activity were in the contralateral hand or foot SM1 cortices. Movement-evoked fields elicited with intermittent movements of the right index finger (once every 3.2–4.0 s; mean ± SD peak response latency 88 ± 25 ms) were co-located with the respective coherent sources.

We further moved the right index finger at 3, 6, and 12 Hz (movement ranges 5, 3, and 2 mm, respectively), and analyzed the first 1, 2, and 4-min epochs of data. One minute of data was sufficient to locate the left hand area of the SM1 cortex at all movement frequencies. Sound-induced spurious coherence was reliably ruled out in a control experiment.

Our novel movement stimulator thus provides a robust and reliable tool to track proprioceptive afference to the cortex and to locate the SM1 cortex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-317
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Corticokinematic coherence
  • Motor mapping
  • Accelerometer
  • Kinematics
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Sensorimotor cortex
  • Pneumatic muscle


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