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J Comp Neurol. 2013 Aug 15;521(12):2798-817. doi: 10.1002/cne.23317.

Intrinsic horizontal connections process global tactile features in the primary somatosensory cortex: neuroanatomical evidence.

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Department of Theory, Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics, Wigner Research Center for Physics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest H-1121, Hungary.


To understand manual tactile functions in primates, it is essential to explore the interactions between the finger pad representations in somatosensory cortex. To this end, we used optical imaging and electrophysiological mapping to guide neuroanatomical tracer injections into distal digit tip representations of Brodmann area 3b in the squirrel monkey. Retrogradely labeled cell densities and anterogradely labeled fibers and terminal patches in somatosensory areas were plotted and quantified with respect to tangential distribution. Within area 3b, reciprocal patchy distribution of anterograde and retrograde labeling spanned the representation of the distal pad of multiple digits, indicating strong cross-digit connectivity. Inter-areal connections revealed bundles of long-range fibers projecting anteroposteriorly, connecting area 3b with clusters of labeled neurons and terminal axon arborizations in area 1. Inter-areal linkage appeared to be largely confined to the representation of the injected finger. These findings provide the neuroanatomical basis for the interaction between distal finger pad representations observed by recent electrophysiological studies. We propose that intra-areal connectivity may be heavily involved in interdigit integration such as shape discrimination, whereas long-range inter-areal connections may subserve active touch in a digit-specific manner.

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