Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Neuroimage. 2021 Sep 17;244:118581. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.118581

Multisensory integration in cortical regions responding to locomotion-related visual and somatomotor signals

During real-world locomotion, in order to be able to move along a path or avoid an obstacle, continuous changes in self-motion direction (i.e. heading) are needed. Control of heading changes during locomotion requires the integration of multiple signals (i.e., visual, somatomotor, vestibular). Recent fMRI studies have shown that both somatomotor areas (human PEc [hPEc], human PE [hPE], primary somatosensory cortex [S-I]) and egomotion visual regions (cingulate sulcus visual area [CSv], posterior cingulate area [pCi], posterior insular cortex [PIC]) respond to either leg movements and egomotion-compatible visual stimulations, suggesting a role in the analysis of both visual attributes of egomotion and somatomotor signals with the aim of guiding locomotion. However, whether these regions are able to integrate egomotion-related visual signals with somatomotor inputs coming from leg movements during heading changes remains an open question. Here we used a combined approach of individual functional localizers and task-evoked activity by fMRI. In thirty subjects we first localized three egomotion areas (CSv, pCi, PIC) and three somatomotor regions (S-I, hPE, hPEc). Then, we tested their responses in a multisensory integration experiment combining visual and somatomotor signals relevant to locomotion in congruent or incongruent trials. We used an fMR-adaptation paradigm to explore the sensitivity to the repeated presentation of these bimodal stimuli in the six regions of interest. Results revealed that hPE, S-I and CSv showed an adaptation effect regardless of congruency, while PIC, pCi and hPEc showed sensitivity to congruency. PIC exhibited a preference for congruent trials compared to incongruent trials. Areas pCi and hPEc exhibited an adaptation effect only for congruent and incongruent trials, respectively. PIC, pCi and hPEc sensitivity to the congruency relationship between visual (locomotion-compatible) cues and (leg-related) somatomotor inputs suggests that these regions are involved in multisensory integration processes, likely in order to guide/adjust leg movements during heading changes.

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