To gain insight into how cortical fields process somatic inputs and ultimately contribute to complex abilities such as tactile object perception, we examined the pattern of connections of two areas in the lateral sulcus of macaque monkeys: the second somatosensory area (S2), and the parietal ventral area (PV). Neuroanatomical tracers were injected into electrophysiologically and/or architectonically defined locations, and labeled cell bodies were identified in cortex ipsilateral and contralateral to the injection site. Transported tracer was related to architectonically defined boundaries so that the full complement of connections of S2 and PV could be appreciated. Our results indicate that S2 is densely interconnected with the primary somatosensory area (3b), PV, and area 7b of the ipsilateral hemisphere, and with S2, 7b, and 3b in the opposite hemisphere. PV is interconnected with areas 3b and 7b, with the parietal rostroventral area, premotor cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and with the medial auditory belt areas. Contralateral connections were restricted to PV in the opposite hemisphere. These data indicate that S2 and PV have unique and overlapping patterns of connections, and that they comprise part of a network that processes both cutaneous and proprioceptive inputs necessary for tactile discrimination and recognition. Although more data are needed, these patterns of interconnections of cortical fields and thalamic nuclei suggest that the somatosensory system may not be segregated into two separate streams of information processing, as has been hypothesized for the visual system. Rather, some fields may be involved in a variety of functions that require motor and sensory integration.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.