Inter-areal and ipsilateral cortical responses to tactile stimulation have not been well described in human S1 cortex. By taking advantage of the high signal-to-noise ratio at 7 T, we quantified blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) response patterns and time courses to tactile stimuli on individual distal finger pads at a fine spatial scale, and examined whether there are inter-areal (area 3b versus area 1) and interhemispheric response differences to unilateral tactile stimulation in healthy human subjects. We found that 2-Hz tactile stimulation of individual fingertips evoked detectable BOLD signal changes in both contralateral and ipsilateral area 3b and area 1. Contralateral digit activations were organized in an orderly somatotopic manner, and BOLD responses in area 3b were more digit selective than those in area 1. However, the area of cortex that was responsive to stimulation of a single digit (stimulus-response field) was similar across areas. In the ipsilateral hemisphere, response magnitudes in both areas 3b and 1 were significantly weaker than those of the contralateral hemisphere. Digit activations exhibited no clear somatotopic organizational pattern in either area 3b or area 1, yet digit selectivity was retained in area 1 but not in area 3b. The observation of distinct digit-selective responses of contralateral area 3b versus area 1 supports a higher order function of contralateral area 1 in spatial integration. In contrast, ipsilateral cortices may play a less discriminative role in the perception of unilateral tactile sensation in humans.
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