We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess activation in the trigeminal ganglion during innocuous mechanical (brush) and noxious thermal (46 degrees C) stimulation of the face within the receptive fields of each of the three divisions of the trigeminal nerve in healthy volunteers. For both stimulus types, we observed signal changes only in the ipsilateral ganglion, and activation occurred somatotopically, as predicted by the known anatomical segregation of the neurons comprising the ophthalmic (V1), maxillary (V2), and mandibular (V3) divisions of the nerve. Signal decreased after brush stimuli and increased after the application of noxious heat. The abilities to detect somatotopic activation within the ganglion and to segregate non-noxious mechanical from noxious thermal stimuli suggest that fMRI will be valuable for measuring changes in the trigeminal ganglion in human models of neuropathic pain and in the clinical condition itself and may also be useful in the evaluation of pain therapies.
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