Sumary of Massage stones help scientists uncover role of prefrontal cortex in sensory perception:
- Scientists at the University of Toronto (U of T) exploring this mystery found that the brain’s prefrontal cortex — a region known primarily for its role in regulating behaviour, impulse inhibition, and cognitive flexibility — produces such general sensations based on information provided by various senses.
- The findings provide new insights into the poorly understood role of the prefrontal cortex in human perception.
- Using a combination of photographs, sounds and even heated massage stones, the researchers investigated patterns of neural activity in the prefrontal cortex as well as the other regions of the brain known to be responsible for processing stimulation from all the senses and found significant similarities.
- “Whether an individual was directly exposed to warmth, for example, or simply looking at a picture of a sunny scene, we saw the same pattern of neural activity in the prefrontal cortex,” said Dirk Bernhardt-Walther, professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts &
- “The results suggest that the prefrontal cortex generalizes perceptual experiences that originate from different senses.
- Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to capture brain activity the researchers conducted two experiments with the same participants, based on knowing how regions of the brain respond differently depending on the intensity of stimulation.
- In the first, the participants viewed a series of images of various scenes — including beaches, city streets, forests, and train stations — and were asked to judge if the scenes were warm or cold and noisy or quiet.
- In the second experiment, participants were first handed a series of massage stones that were either heated to 45C or cooled to 9C, and later exposed to sounds both quiet and noisy — such as birds, people, and waves at a beach.