Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre
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Your hands are pretty magical.

When you touch something or someone, a variety of afferent sensory neurons in your digits send invisible fireworks (neural signals) shooting up your spinal cord, racing through your brain and finally exploding in your 'somatosensory cortex'.

We can feel the lightest breeze dancing on our fingertips, the caress of another human being, the warmth from a fireplace - I can feel the edges and corners of every key I press racing across this keyboard.


Touch Map


Can we see where and when these fireworks end up/start and finish? Turns out, with advanced imaging techniques such as fMRI and MEG, we can.

Next time you try shuffling a pack of cards, think about those receptors in your fingers, feeling, reacting, judging; yes, your hands are magical, and novel research performed here at the SPMIC allows us to unmask those invisible firework displays.


  • The somatosensory cortex is the functional area in the brain representing touch.
  • Previous studies of digit somatotopy (mapping the region of sensory space on your skin to the activated area in your brain) have used UHF-fMRI at 7T, and a 'travelling wave' paradigm to identify individual digits and phalanges.
  • The aim of this project is to characterise the human tactile somatosensory system in healthy subjects and investigate how it is altered in clinical conditions.
  • This is multidisciplinary project including experts in MR physics, advanced neuroimaging and signal processing, affective neuroscience and clinical neurophysiology; who will be exploiting mulitiple image modalities such as MEG (magnetoencephalography), and INMS (intraneural microstimulation).

Somatotopic mapping of the digits at 7 T (Sanchez-Panchuelo et al. 2012)
Somatotopic mapping of the digits at 7 T (Sanchez-Panchuelo et al. 2012)