Neural correlates of an illusory touch experience investigated with fMRI

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    When asked to judge the presence or absence of near-threshold tactile stimuli, participants often report touch experiences when no tactile stimulation has been delivered ('false alarms'). The simultaneous presentation of a light flash during the stimulation period can increase the frequency of touch reports, both when touch is and is not present. Using fMRI, we investigated the BOLD response during both light-present and light-absent false alarms, testing predictions concerning two possible neural mechanisms underlying these illusory touch experiences: activation of a tactile representation in primary somatosensory cortex (SI) and/or activation of a tactile representation in late processing areas outside of sensory-specific cortex, such as medial prefrontal cortex (MPC). Our behavioural results showed that participants made false alarms in light-present and light-absent trials, both of which activated regions of the medial parietal and medial prefrontal cortex including precuneus, posterior cingulate and paracingulate cortex, suggesting the same underlying mechanism. However, only a non-significant increase in SI activity was measured in response to false alarm vs. correct rejection trials. We argue that our results provide evidence for the role of top-down regions in somatic misperception, consistent with findings from studies in humans and non-human primates. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3430-3438
    Number of pages8
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


    • FMRI
    • Medial prefrontal cortex
    • Posterior cingulate cortex
    • Signal detection theory
    • Touch
    • Vision


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