Physical practice with one hand results in performance gains of the other (un-practiced) hand, yet the role of sensory feedback and underlying neurophysiology is unclear. Healthy subjects learned sequences of finger movements by physical training with their right hand while receiving real-time movement-based visual feedback via 3D virtual reality devices as if their immobile left hand was training. This manipulation resulted in significantly enhanced performance gain with the immobile hand, which was further increased when left-hand fingers were yoked to passively follow right-hand voluntary movements. Neuroimaging data show that, during training with manipulated visual feedback, activity in the left and right superior parietal lobule and their degree of coupling with motor and visual cortex, respectively, correlate with subsequent left-hand performance gain. These results point to a neural network subserving short-term motor skill learning and may have implications for developing new approaches for learning and rehabilitation in patients with unilateral motor deficits.
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.
Hand before foot? Cortical somatotopy suggests manual dexterity is primitive and evolved independently of bipedalism
- Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
- Published over 4 years ago
People have long speculated whether the evolution of bipedalism in early hominins triggered tool use (by freeing their hands) or whether the necessity of making and using tools encouraged the shift to upright gait. Either way, it is commonly thought that one led to the other. In this study, we sought to shed new light on the origins of manual dexterity and bipedalism by mapping the neural representations in the brain of the fingers and toes of living people and monkeys. Contrary to the ‘hand-in-glove’ notion outlined above, our results suggest that adaptations underlying tool use evolved independently of those required for human bipedality. In both humans and monkeys, we found that each finger was represented separately in the primary sensorimotor cortex just as they are physically separated in the hand. This reflects the ability to use each digit independently, as required for the complex manipulation involved in tool use. The neural mapping of the subjects' toes differed, however. In the monkeys, the somatotopic representation of the toes was fused, showing that the digits function predominantly as a unit in general grasping. Humans, by contrast, had an independent neurological representation of the big toe (hallux), suggesting association with bipedal locomotion. These observations suggest that the brain circuits for the hand had advanced beyond simple grasping, whereas our primate ancestors were still general arboreal quadrupeds. This early adaptation laid the foundation for the evolution of manual dexterity, which was preserved and enhanced in hominins. In hominins, a separate adaptation, involving the neural separation of the big toe, apparently occurred with bipedality. This accords with the known fossil evidence, including the recently reported hominin fossils which have been dated to 4.4 million years ago.
Various theories have been posed to explain the fitness payoffs of hunting success among hunter-gatherers. ‘Having’ theories refer to the acquisition of resources, and include the direct provisioning hypothesis. In contrast, ‘getting’ theories concern the signalling of male resourcefulness and other desirable traits, such as athleticism and intelligence, via hunting prowess. We investigated the association between androgenisation and endurance running ability as a potential signalling mechanism, whereby running prowess, vital for persistence hunting, might be used as a reliable signal of male reproductive fitness by females. Digit ratio (2D:4D) was used as a proxy for prenatal androgenisation in 439 males and 103 females, while a half marathon race (21km), representing a distance/duration comparable with that of persistence hunting, was used to assess running ability. Digit ratio was significantly and positively correlated with half-marathon time in males (right hand: r = 0.45, p<0.001; left hand: r = 0.42, p<0.001) and females (right hand: r = 0.26, p<0.01; left hand: r = 0.23, p = 0.02). Sex-interaction analysis showed that this correlation was significantly stronger in males than females, suggesting that androgenisation may have experienced stronger selective pressure from endurance running in males. As digit ratio has previously been shown to predict reproductive success, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that endurance running ability may signal reproductive potential in males, through its association with prenatal androgen exposure. However, further work is required to establish whether and how females respond to this signalling for fitness.
The relation between pain perception and spatial representation of the body is poorly understood. In the thermal grill illusion (TGI), alternating non-noxious warm and cold temperatures cause a paradoxical, sometimes painful, sensation of burning heat . We combined thermal grill stimulation with crossing the fingers to investigate whether nociceptively mediated sensation depends on the somatotopic or spatiotopic configuration of thermal inputs. We stimulated the index, middle, and ring fingers when the middle finger either was or was not crossed over the index to generate “warm-cold-warm” patterns in either somatotopic or spatiotopic coordinates. Participants adjusted a temperature delivered to the other hand until it matched their perception of the cold target finger (index or middle). We found significant temperature overestimation when the target was central within the spatial configuration (warm-cold-warm) compared to when it was peripheral (cold-warm-warm). Crucially, this effect depended on the spatiotopic configuration of thermal inputs, but it was independent of the finger posture and present for both index and middle target fingers-the thermal grill effect for the middle finger was abolished when it was crossed over the index to adopt a spatiotopically peripheral position, while the same effect was newly generated for the index finger by the same postural change. Our results suggest that the locations of multiple stimuli are remapped into external space as a group; nociceptively mediated sensations depended not on the body posture, but rather on the external spatial configuration formed by the pattern of thermal stimuli in each posture.
Cortical activity allotted to the tactile receptors on fingertips conforms to skilful use of the hand [1-3]. For instance, in string instrument players, the somatosensory cortical activity in response to touch on the little fingertip is larger than that in control subjects . Such plasticity of the fingertip sensory representation is not limited to extraordinary skills and occurs in monkeys trained to repetitively grasp and release a handle as well . Touchscreen phones also require repetitive finger movements, but whether and how the cortex conforms to this is unknown. By using electroencephalography (EEG), we measured the cortical potentials in response to mechanical touch on the thumb, index, and middle fingertips of touchscreen phone users and nonusers (owning only old-technology mobile phones). Although the thumb interacted predominantly with the screen, the potentials associated with the three fingertips were enhanced in touchscreen users compared to nonusers. Within the touchscreen users, the cortical potentials from the thumb and index fingertips were directly proportional to the intensity of use quantified with built-in battery logs. Remarkably, the thumb tip was sensitive to the day-to-day fluctuations in phone use: the shorter the time elapsed from an episode of intense phone use, the larger the cortical potential associated with it. Our results suggest that repetitive movements on the smooth touchscreen reshaped sensory processing from the hand and that the thumb representation was updated daily depending on its use. We propose that cortical sensory processing in the contemporary brain is continuously shaped by the use of personal digital technology.
The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) is a test introduced by Frederick (2005). The task is designed to measure the tendency to override an intuitive response that is incorrect and to engage in further reflection that leads to the correct response. The consistent sex differences in CRT performance may suggest a role for prenatal sex hormones. A now widely studied putative marker for relative prenatal testosterone is the second-to-fourth digit ratio (2D:4D). This paper tests to what extent 2D:4D, as a proxy for the prenatal ratio of testosterone/estrogens, can predict CRT scores in a sample of 623 students. After controlling for sex, we observe that a lower 2D:4D (reflecting a relative higher exposure to testosterone) is significantly associated with a higher number of correct answers. The result holds for both hands' 2D:4Ds. In addition, the effect appears to be stronger for females than for males. We also control for patience and math proficiency, which are significantly related to performance in the CRT. But the effect of 2D:4D on performance in CRT is not reduced with these controls, implying that these variables are not mediating the relationship between digit ratio and CRT.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 2 years ago
Human identification by fingerprints is based on the fundamental premise that ridge patterns from distinct fingers are different (uniqueness) and a fingerprint pattern does not change over time (persistence). Although the uniqueness of fingerprints has been investigated by developing statistical models to estimate the probability of error in comparing two random samples of fingerprints, the persistence of fingerprints has remained a general belief based on only a few case studies. In this study, fingerprint match (similarity) scores are analyzed by multilevel statistical models with covariates such as time interval between two fingerprints in comparison, subject’s age, and fingerprint image quality. Longitudinal fingerprint records of 15,597 subjects are sampled from an operational fingerprint database such that each individual has at least five 10-print records over a minimum time span of 5 y. In regard to the persistence of fingerprints, the longitudinal analysis on a single (right index) finger demonstrates that (i) genuine match scores tend to significantly decrease when time interval between two fingerprints in comparison increases, whereas the change in impostor match scores is negligible; and (ii) fingerprint recognition accuracy at operational settings, nevertheless, tends to be stable as the time interval increases up to 12 y, the maximum time span in the dataset. However, the uncertainty of temporal stability of fingerprint recognition accuracy becomes substantially large if either of the two fingerprints being compared is of poor quality. The conclusions drawn from 10-finger fusion analysis coincide with the conclusions from single-finger analysis.
Abstract This is a randomized, double-blind study enrolling 70 patients with onychomycosis of the finger and toenails. Clinical and mycological efficacies as well as measures of safety were assessed monthly for a maximum of 6 months of treatment. The treatment regimens were: fluconazole 1% and fluconazole 1% with urea 40%. These results indicated topical treatment of onychomycosis with a combination of fluconazole 1% and urea 40% was more effective (82.8%) than fluconazole 1% (62.8%) nail lacquer alone in treatment of dermatophytic onychomycosis. Fluconazole was well tolerated and side effects were negligible. At the end of therapy and the end of the 6-month follow-up, fluconazole 1% and urea 40% demonstrated statistically significant superiority in clinical and mycological responses compared with fluconazole 1% alone.
The ratio of second to fourth digit length (2D:4D) is a correlate of prenatal testosterone. High 2D:4D is associated with low prenatal testosterone, and reduced sensitivity to testosterone. Klinefelter’s syndrome (KS; 47 XXY) affects the endocrine system, such that low testosterone levels are found in KS foetuses, new-borns and adults. To date, there are no published data regarding the pattern of 2D:4D in KS males. Here we consider 2D:4D in KS individuals (n = 51), their relatives (16 fathers and 15 mothers) and an unaffected control sample of 153 men and 153 women. Adult KS individuals were taller than their fathers and had shorter fingers than fathers and male controls. Compared with fathers, male controls and mothers, KS males had shorter fingers relative to height. With regard to 2D:4D, KS individuals had higher 2D:4D than fathers (right and left hands), male controls (right and left hands) and mothers (left hands). Among KS males older than 13 years there were 34 individuals currently prescribed testosterone and nine not prescribed. In comparison to the former, the latter individuals had higher right 2D:4D and higher right-left 2D:4D. We conclude that KS males have mean 2D:4D values similar to those found in female population norms. In addition, testosterone supplementation in KS males may be most common for individuals with low right 2D:4D.