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Somatotopic mapping of the human breast using 7 T functional MRI

Publication year 2020
Published in NeuroImage
Authors Jop Beugels, Job van den Hurk, J.C. Peters, Esther M Heuts, Stefania M H Tuinder, R. Goebel, René R W J van der Hulst

How are tactile sensations in the breast represented in the female and male brain? Using ultra high-field 7 T MRI in ten females and ten males, we demonstrate that the representation of tactile breast information shows a somatotopic organization, with cortical magnification of the nipple. Furthermore, we show that the core representation of the breast is organized according to the specific nerve architecture that underlies breast sensation, where the medial and lateral sides of one breast are asymmetrically represented in bilateral primary somatosensory cortex. Finally, gradual selectivity signatures allude to a somatotopic organization of the breast area with overlapping, but distinctive, cortical representations of breast segments. Our univariate and multivariate analyses consistently showed similar somatosensory breast representations in males and females. The findings can guide future research on neuroplastic reorganization of the breast area, across reproductive life stages, and after breast surgery.

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