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Revealing the neural fingerprints of a missing hand

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Cite this article as: eLife 2016;5:e15292 doi: 10.7554/eLife.15292

Abstract

The hand area of the primary somatosensory cortex contains detailed finger topography, thought to be shaped and maintained by daily life experience. Here we utilise phantom sensations and ultra high-field neuroimaging to uncover preserved, though latent, representation of amputees' missing hand. We show that representation of the missing hand's individual fingers persists in the primary somatosensory cortex even decades after arm amputation. By demonstrating stable topography despite amputation, our finding questions the extent to which continued sensory input is necessary to maintain organisation in sensory cortex, thereby reopening the question what happens to a cortical territory once its main input is lost. The discovery of persistent digit topography of amputees' missing hand could be exploited for the development of intuitive and fine-grained control of neuroprosthetics, requiring neural signals of individual digits.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Sanne Kikkert

    FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  2. James Kolasinski

    FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-1599-6440
  3. Saad Jbabdi

    FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  4. Irene Tracey

    FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  5. Christian F Beckmann

    FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
  6. Heidi Johansen-Berg

    FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    Heidi Johansen-Berg, Reviewing editor, eLife.
  7. Tamar R Makin

    FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    tamar.makin@ndcn.ox.ac.uk
    Competing interests
    No competing interests declared.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-5816-8979

Funding

Merton College, University of Oxford (Graduate School Studentship)

  • Sanne Kikkert

Wellcome Trust (UK Strategic Award , 098369/Z/12/Z)

  • Christian F Beckmann

Medical Research Council (Graduate School Studentship)

  • Sanne Kikkert

University College, Oxford (Stevenson Junior Research Fellowship)

  • James Kolasinski

Medical Research Council (MR/L009013/1)

  • Saad Jbabdi

Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO-Vidi 864-12-003)

  • Christian F Beckmann

Wellcome Trust (Strategic Award)

  • Irene Tracey

NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre

  • Irene Tracey

Wellcome Trust (Principal Research Fellow, 110027/Z/15/Z)

  • Heidi Johansen-Berg

Wellcome Trust and Royal Society (Sir Henry Dale Fellowship, 104128/Z/14/Z)

  • Tamar R Makin

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Human subjects: Ethical approval was granted by the NHS National Research Ethics service (10/H0707/29) and written informed consent was obtained from all participants prior to the study.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Klaas Enno Stephan, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Publication history

  1. Received: February 23, 2016
  2. Accepted: August 22, 2016
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: August 23, 2016 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: September 28, 2016 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2016, Kikkert et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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