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Organization of somatosensory cortex in the laboratory rat (Rattus norvegicus): Evidence for two lateral areas joined at the representation of the teeth

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Abstract

Lateral somatosensory areas have not been explored in detail in rats, and theories on the organization of this region are based largely on anatomical tracing experiments. We investigated the topography of this region by using microelectrode recordings, which were related to flattened cortical sections processed for cytochrome oxidase (CO). Two lateral somatosensory areas were identified, each containing a complete representation of the body. A larger, more medial representation formed a mirror image of S1 along the rostrocaudal axis of the head region corresponding to the previously identified secondary somatosensory area (S2). A smaller, more lateral representation formed a mirror image of S2 along the rostrocaudal axis of the forelimb and hindlimb regions and likely corresponds to the parietal ventral area (PV) identified in other mammals. We also investigated the representation of the dentition and identified regions of cortex responsive to tooth stimulation. The lower incisor representation was rostral to the lower lip region of S1, and the upper incisor representation was lateral to the buccal pad region of S1. The upper and lower incisors flanked the tongue representation. An additional large region of far lateral cortex responded to both incisors. Finally, five CO-dense modules were consistently identified rostral and lateral to the S1 face representation, which we refer to as OM1, OM2, OM3, FM, and HM. These modules closely correspond to the physiologically identified areas representing the lower incisor (OM1) and tongue (OM2) regions of S1 and the mixed tooth (OM3), forelimb (FM1), and hindlimb (HM) representations of S2 and PV. J. Comp. Neurol. 467:105–118, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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