The detailed organization of somatosensory area 3a was examined in macaque monkeys using multiunit electrophysiological recording techniques. By examining topographic relationships, changes in receptive field size, and the type of stimulus that neurons responded to, functional boundaries of area 3a were determined and related to architectonic boundaries. One striking observation was that the location of area 3a varied with respect to the central sulcus. In one-half of the cases area 3a was on the rostral bank and fundus of the central sulcus and in the other half of the cases it was on the caudal bank and fundus of the central sulcus. In terms of topographic organization, we found that area 3a contains a complete representation of deep receptors and musculature of the contralateral body, and that the general organization of body part representations mirrors that of the primary somatosensory area, 3b. These results as well as results from studies of area 3a in ours and other laboratories indicate that area 3a is part of a network involved in proprioception, postural control, and the generation of coordinated movements. Further, comparative analysis of area 3a in a variety of species suggests that its construction is based, to a large extent, on the use of a particular body part rather than on innervation density. J. Comp. Neurol. 471:97–111, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.