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J Neurosci. 1998 Apr 1;18(7):2626-45.

Structure of receptive fields in area 3b of primary somatosensory cortex in the alert monkey.

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  • 1Krieger Mind/Brain Institute, Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA.


We investigated the two-dimensional structure of area 3b neuronal receptive fields (RFs) in three alert monkeys. Three hundred thirty neurons with RFs on the distal fingerpads were studied with scanned, random dot stimuli. Each neuron was stimulated continuously for 14 min, yielding 20,000 response data points. Excitatory and inhibitory components of each RF were determined with a modified linear regression algorithm. Analyses assessing goodness-of-fit, repeatability, and generality of the RFs were developed. Two hundred forty-seven neurons yielded highly repeatable RF estimates, and most RFs accounted for a large fraction of the explainable response of each neuron. Although the area 3b RF structures appeared to be continuously distributed, certain structural generalities were apparent. Most RFs (94%) contained a single, central region of excitation and one or more regions of inhibition located on one, two, three, or all four sides of the excitatory center. The shape, area, and strength of excitatory and inhibitory RF regions ranged widely. Half the RFs contained almost evenly balanced excitation and inhibition. The findings indicate that area 3b neurons act as local spatiotemporal filters that are maximally excited by the presence of particular stimulus features. We believe that form and texture perception are based on high-level representations and that area 3b is an intermediate stage in the processes leading to these representations. Two possibilities are considered: (1) that these high-level representations are basically somatotopic and that area 3b neurons amplify some features and suppress others, or (2) that these representations are highly transformed and that area 3b effects a step in the transformation.

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