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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jul 22;105(29):10233-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0803800105. Epub 2008 Jul 15.

Widespread spatial integration in primary somatosensory cortex.

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Neuroscience Graduate Program, Vanderbilt Brain Institute, U1205 Medical Center North, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235-2050, USA.


Tactile discrimination depends on integration of information from the discrete receptive fields (RFs) of peripheral sensory afferents. Because this information is processed over a hierarchy of subcortical nuclei and cortical areas, the integration likely occurs at multiple levels. The current study presents results indicating that neurons across most of the extent of the hand representation in monkey primary somatosensory cortex (area 3b) interact, even when these neurons have separate RFs. We obtained simultaneous recordings by using a 100-electrode array implanted in the hand representation of primary somatosensory cortex of two anesthetized owl monkeys. During a series of 0.5-s skin indentations with single or dual probes, the distance between electrodes from which neurons with synchronized spike times were recorded exceeded 2 mm. The results provide evidence that stimuli on different parts of the hand influence the degree of synchronous firing among a large population of neurons. Because spike synchrony potentiates the activation of commonly targeted neurons, synchronous neural activity in primary somatosensory cortex can contribute to discrimination of complex tactile stimuli.

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