Microelectrode maps, myeloarchitecture, and cortical connections of three somatotopically organized representations of the body surface in the parietal cortex of squirrels



Microelectrode mapping methods and anatomical procedures were combined in the same animals to reveal the cortical connections of three architectonically distinct representations of the body surface in the somatosensory cortex of grey squirrels. In individual experiments, microelectrode multiunit recordings were used to determine the somatotopic organization of regions of the cortex and to identify sites for injections of the anatomical tracer, wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase. After the brains were perfused, the cortex was separated from the brainstem, flattened, and cut parallel to the flattened surface to facilitate comparisons of areal connection patterns, physiological data, and architectonic subdivisions.

Recordings in the primary (S-I) and secondary (S-II) somatosensory fields confirmed earlier descriptions of the somatotopic organization of these fields (Sur et al.: J. Comp. Neurol 179:425–450, '78; Nelson et al.: J. Comp. Neurol 184:473–490, '79). In addition, recordings in the cortex caudal to S-I and ventral to S-II revealed a third representation of the body surface in parietal cortex, the parietal ventral area (PV). Neurons in PV were responsive to light tactile stimulation of skin and hairs. Multiple unit receptive fields of neurons in PV were larger than those for neurons in S-I but similar in size to those for neurons in S-II. PV represented the contralateral body surface in a somatotopic manner that can be roughly characterized as an inverted “homunculus” with the limbs directed medially, the trunk located ventrally, and the face congruent with the representations of the upper lip and nose in S-I. Neurons in some electrode penetrations in PV were also responsive to auditory clicks.

Microlesions placed at physiologically determined borders allowed all three somatic representations to be related to myeloarchitectonically defined fields. S-I was architectonically distinct as a densely myelinated region. Within S-I, a lightly myelinated oval of the cortex between the representation of the hand and face, the “unresponsive zone” (Sur et al.: J. Comp. Neurol 179:425-450, '78), was an easily recognized landmark. S-II and PV corresponded to less densely myelinated fields. Other subdivisions such as motor cortex, primary auditory cortex, and visual areas 17 and 18 were distinguished.