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Design and Application of a New Automated Fluidic Visceral Stimulation Device for Human fMRI Studies of Interoception

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Design and Application of a New Automated Fluidic Visceral Stimulation Device for Human fMRI Studies of Interoception
Mapping the brain centers that mediate the sensory-perceptual processing of visceral afferent signals arising from the body (i.e., interoception) is useful both for characterizing normal brain activity and for understanding clinical disorders related to abnormal processing of visceral sensation such as stress incontinence and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Here, we report a novel closed-system, electrohydrostatically driven master–slave device that was designed and constructed for delivering controlled fluidic stimulations of visceral organs and inner cavities of the human body within the confines of a 3T MRI scanner. The design concept and performance of the device in the MRI environment are described. In addition, the device was applied during an fMRI investigation of visceral stimulation related to detrusor distention in two representative subjects to verify its feasibility in humans. System evaluation tests demonstrate that the device is MR-compatible with negligible impact on imaging quality (static SNR loss < 2.5%, and temporal SNR loss < 3.5%), and has an accuracy of 99.68% for flow rate, and 99.27% for volume delivery. A precise synchronization of the stimulus delivery with fMRI slice acquisition was achieved by programming the proposed device to detect the TTL (5 V Transistor-Transistor Logic) trigger signals generated by the MRI scanner. fMRI data analysis using general linear model (GLM) analysis with the standard hemodynamic response function showed increased activations in the network of brain regions that included the insula, anterior and mid-cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortices, and thalamus in response to increased distension pressure on viscera. The translation from manually operated devices to an MRcompatible and MR-synchronized device under automatic control represents a useful innovation for clinical neuroimaging studies of human interoception.

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