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J Clin Invest. 2010 Nov;120(11):3773-8. doi: 10.1172/JCI43426. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

Labeled lines meet and talk: population coding of somatic sensations.

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  • 1Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The somatic sensory system responds to stimuli of distinct modalities, including touch, pain, itch, and temperature sensitivity. In the past century, great progress has been made in understanding the coding of these sensory modalities. From this work, two major features have emerged. First, there are specific neuronal circuits or labeled lines transmitting specific sensory information from the skin to the brain. Second, the generation of specific sensations often involves crosstalk among distinct labeled lines. These features suggest that population coding is the mechanism underlying somatic sensation.

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