Movement-sensitive and direction and orientation-selective cutaneous receptive fields in the hand area of the post-central gyrus in monkeys

J Physiol. 1978 Oct;283:523-37. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1978.sp012517.


1. In the hand area of the post-central gyrus of three alert Macaca speciosa monkeys neurones related to cutaneous receptors but not activated by simple touch on the receptive field were recorded using the transdural micro-electrode recording technique. Thirty-six cells were found to have complex cutaneous receptive field properties. These neurones were subdivided into the following three groups. 2. Nine neurones were not activated by punctate stimuli on the receptive fields but responded well to movement along the skin. The activity of these neurones was not affected by the direction of movement; nor was it sensitive to different textures of the moving surface. 3. Eighteen neurones responded to cutaneous movement along the skin surface in a particular direction giving no response to stimulation in the opposite direction and intermediate responses to intermediate directions. Similar responses were evoked from different subparts of the receptive field. 4. Nine neurones responded well to an edge placed on the skin in an optimal orientation or moved along the skin in a direction perpendicular to the edge. A maximal response was produced by stimuli of the same optimal orientation in different parts of the receptive field. The significance of the stimuli to the monkey had only a minor influence on the magnitude of the responses of these neurones and no influence on the receptive field properties. 5. The occurrence of the complex cutaneous cells increased from anterior to posterior within the post-central gyrus and most of them were found in Brodmann's area 2. Thus we postulate that the complex receptive field properties arise as a consequence of cortical processing in a network in which postsynaptic one-way lateral inhibition generates the directional properties of the neurones. 6. The complex cutaneous neurones constituted only 6% of the neurones studied in the hand area of the post-central gyrus. Thus the prevalence of neurones with elongated and direction-selective receptive fields is low in the primary somatosensory cortex in comparison with the visual cortex. These neurones may, however, serve the sterognostic capcity of the hand by contributing information about stimulus motion, orientation and direction of movement on the skin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Hand / innervation*
  • Haplorhini
  • Macaca
  • Movement
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*