Receptive field (RF) properties of the macaque second somatosensory cortex: RF size, shape, and somatotopic organization

Paul J. Fitzgerald, John W. Lane, Pramodsingh H. Thakur, Steven S. Hsiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The detailed structure of multidigit receptive fields (RFs) in somatosensory cortical areas such as the SII region has not been investigated previously using systematically controlled stimuli. Recently (Fitzgerald et al., 2004), we showed that the SII region comprises three adjoining fields: posterior, central, and anterior. Here we characterize the RF structures of the 928 neurons that were reported in that study using a motorized oriented bar that was indented into the 12 finger pads of digits 2-5. Most (81%) of the neurons were responsive to the oriented bar stimuli, and 81% of those neurons had RFs that spanned multiple digits. Furthermore, the RFs varied greatly in size, shape, and complexity. Some RFs contained only excitatory finger pads, some contained only inhibitory pads, and some contained both types of pads. A subset of the neurons (23%) showed orientation tuning within one or more pads. The RFs spread across different digits more than within individual digits, and the responsive finger pads for a given neuron tended to cluster together within the hand. Distal and lateral finger pads were better represented than proximal and medial finger pads. Furthermore, neurons in the posterior, central, and anterior SII region fields contained different proportions of RF types. These results collectively indicate that most SII region neurons are selective for different stimulus forms either within single finger pads or across multiple pads. We hypothesize that these RFs represent the kernels underlying the representation of tactile shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6485-6495
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2006


  • Orientation
  • Receptive field
  • SII
  • Somatosensory cortex
  • Somatotopy
  • Tactile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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