A difference exists in somatosensory processing between the anterior and posterior parts of the tongue.
Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured using positron emission tomography (PET) during four tasks in right-handed volunteers with eyes closed: resting, protruding the tongue, stroking the left side of the protruding tongue, and stroking the right side of the protruding tongue. The primary somatosensory tongue representation (S1) mapped to the contralateral central sulcus (Brodmann (BA) 3/4) at approximately 28 mm above the intercommissural plane. Of note, stimulation of the left side of the tongue produced also an ipsilateral S1 response. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) of rCBF at S1 across all four conditions yielded only a significant effect for tongue stimulation, with no effect of laterality; the usually large asymmetries (contralateral >> ipsilateral) in S1 did not surface. We hypothesize that this atypical activation pattern arises from the tongue's specialization for language.