This paper presents a simple device for the investigation of the human somatosensory system with functional magnetic imaging (fMRI). PC-controlled pneumatic actuation is employed to produce innocuous or noxious mechanical stimulation of the skin. Stimulation patterns are synchronized with fMRI and other relevant physiological measurements like electroencephalographic activity and vital physiological parameters. The system allows adjustable regulation of stimulation parameters and provides consistent patterns of stimulation. A validation experiment demonstrates that the system safely and reliably identifies clusters of functional activity in brain regions involved in the processing of pain. This new device is inexpensive, portable, easy-to-assemble and customizable to suit different experimental requirements. It provides robust and consistent somatosensory stimulation, which is of crucial importance to investigating the mechanisms of pain and its strong connection with the sense of touch.
Riillo, F., Bagnato, C., Allievi, A. G., Takagi, A., Fabrizi, L., Saggio, G., … Burdet, E. (2016). A Simple fMRI Compatible Robotic Stimulator to Study the Neural Mechanisms of Touch and Pain. Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 44(8), 2431–2441. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10439-016-1549-y