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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 30;8(7):e69931. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069931. Print 2013.

Somato-motor haptic processing in posterior inner perisylvian region (SII/pIC) of the macaque monkey.

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Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Brain Center for Motor and Social Cognition (BCSMC), Parma, Italy.


The posterior inner perisylvian region including the secondary somatosensory cortex (area SII) and the adjacent region of posterior insular cortex (pIC) has been implicated in haptic processing by integrating somato-motor information during hand-manipulation, both in humans and in non-human primates. However, motor-related properties during hand-manipulation are still largely unknown. To investigate a motor-related activity in the hand region of SII/pIC, two macaque monkeys were trained to perform a hand-manipulation task, requiring 3 different grip types (precision grip, finger exploration, side grip) both in light and in dark conditions. Our results showed that 70% (n = 33/48) of task related neurons within SII/pIC were only activated during monkeys' active hand-manipulation. Of those 33 neurons, 15 (45%) began to discharge before hand-target contact, while the remaining neurons were tonically active after contact. Thirty-percent (n = 15/48) of studied neurons responded to both passive somatosensory stimulation and to the motor task. A consistent percentage of task-related neurons in SII/pIC was selectively activated during finger exploration (FE) and precision grasping (PG) execution, suggesting they play a pivotal role in control skilled finger movements. Furthermore, hand-manipulation-related neurons also responded when visual feedback was absent in the dark. Altogether, our results suggest that somato-motor neurons in SII/pIC likely contribute to haptic processing from the initial to the final phase of grasping and object manipulation. Such motor-related activity could also provide the somato-motor binding principle enabling the translation of diachronic somatosensory inputs into a coherent image of the explored object.

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