Topographic and widespread auditory modulation of the somatosensory cortex: Potential for bimodal sound and body stimulation for pain treatment

Cory D Gloeckner, Jian C. Nocon, Hubert H. Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective. There has been growing interest in understanding multisensory integration in the cortex through activation of multiple sensory and motor pathways to treat brain disorders, such as tinnitus or essential tremors. For tinnitus, previous studies show that combined sound and body stimulation can modulate the auditory pathway and lead to significant improvements in tinnitus symptoms. Considering that tinnitus is a type of chronic auditory pain, bimodal stimulation could potentially alter activity in the somatosensory pathway relevant for treating chronic pain. As an initial step towards that goal, we mapped and characterized neuromodulation effects in the somatosensory cortex (SC) in response to sound and/or electrical stimulation of the body. Approach. We first mapped the topographic organization of activity across the SC of ketamine-anesthetized guinea pigs through electrical stimulation of different body locations using subcutaneous needle electrodes or with broadband acoustic stimulation. We then characterized how neural activity in different parts of the SC could be facilitated or suppressed with bimodal stimulation. Main results. The topography in the SC of guinea pigs in response to electrical stimulation of the body aligns consistently to that shown in previous rodent studies. Interestingly, auditory broadband noise stimulation primarily excited SC areas that typically respond to stimulation of lower body locations. Although there was only a small subset of SC locations that were excited by acoustic stimulation alone, all SC recording sites could be altered (facilitated or suppressed) with bimodal stimulation. Furthermore, specific regions of the SC could be modulated by stimulating an appropriate body region combined with broadband noise. Significance. These findings show that bimodal stimulation can excite or modulate firing across a widespread yet targeted population of SC neurons. This approach may provide a non-invasive method for altering or disrupting abnormal firing patterns within certain parts of the SC for chronic pain treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number036043
JournalJournal of neural engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Creative Commons Attribution license.


  • bimodal neuromodulation
  • bimodal stimulation
  • multisensory
  • neuromodulation
  • pain
  • somatosensory cortex
  • tinnitus


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