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Cereb Cortex. 1998 Apr-May;8(3):227-36.

A histologically visible representation of the fingers and palm in primate area 3b and its immutability following long-term deafferentations.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37240, USA.


An isomorph of the glabrous hand is visible in primary somato-sensory cortex (area 3b) of owl monkeys in brain sections cut parallel to the surface and stained for myelin. A mediolateral row of five ovals, separated by myelin-light septa, represents digits and corresponds precisely with cortical sites activated by light touch on individual digits in microelectrode recordings. A number of caudal ovals relate to pads of the palm. A more distinct septum separates the hand from the more lateral face representation. Within the face representation, two large myelin-dense ovals can be identified that are activated by the upper or lower face in a caudo-rostral sequence. Accidental finger loss or dorsal column section, deafferentations that result in reorganization of the physiological map in area 3b, do not alter the morphological map. The proportions for each digit and palm in the morphological map do not vary across normal and deafferented animals. Similar isomorphs were also seen in area 3b of squirrel and macaque monkeys. We conclude that the anatomical isomorph for the body surface representation in area 3b is a reliable reflection of normal cortical organization and may be a common feature of the primate area 3b. The isomorph can provide a reference in studies of somatotopic reorganization.

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