Cortical and thalamic connections of the representations of the teeth and tongue in somatosensory cortex of new world monkeys



Connections of representations of the teeth and tongue in primary somatosensory cortex (area 3b) and adjoining cortex were revealed in owl, squirrel, and marmoset monkeys with injections of fluorescent tracers. Injection sites were identified by microelectrode recordings from neurons responsive to touch on the teeth or tongue. Patterns of cortical label were related to myeloarchitecture in sections cut parallel to the surface of flattened cortex, and to coronal sections of the thalamus processed for cytochrome oxidase (CO). Cortical sections revealed a caudorostral series of myelin dense ovals (O1–O4) in area 3b that represent the periodontal receptors of the contralateral teeth, the contralateral tongue, the ipsilateral teeth, and the ipsilateral tongue. The ventroposterior medial subnucleus, VPM, and the ventroposterior medial parvicellular nucleus for taste, VPMpc, were identified in the thalamic sections. Injections placed in the O1 oval representing teeth labeled neurons in VPM, while injections in O2 representing the tongue labeled neurons in both VPMpc and VPM. These injections also labeled adjacent part of areas 3a and 1, and locations in the lateral sulcus and frontal lobe. Callosally, connections of the ovals were most dense with corresponding ovals. Injections in the area 1 representation of the tongue labeled neurons in VPMpc and VPM, and ipsilateral area 3b ovals, area 3a, opercular cortex, and cortex in the lateral sulcus. Contralaterally, labeled neurons were mostly in area 1. The results implicate portions of areas 3b, 3a, and 1 in the processing of tactile information from the teeth and tongue, and possibly taste information from the tongue. J. Comp. Neurol. 501:95–120, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.