Neural codes for perceptual discrimination in primary somatosensory cortex

Nat Neurosci. 2005 Sep;8(9):1210-9. doi: 10.1038/nn1513. Epub 2005 Jul 31.


We sought to determine the neural code(s) for frequency discrimination of vibrotactile stimuli. We tested five possible candidate codes by analyzing the responses of single neurons recorded in primary somatosensory cortex of trained monkeys while they discriminated between two consecutive vibrotactile stimuli. Differences in the frequency of two stimuli could be discriminated using information from (i) time intervals between spikes, (ii) average spiking rate during each stimulus, (iii) absolute number of spikes elicited by each stimulus, (iv) average rate of bursts of spikes or (v) absolute number of spike bursts elicited by each stimulus. However, only a spike count code, in which spikes are integrated over a time window that has most of its mass in the first 250 ms of each stimulus period, covaried with behavior on a trial-by-trial basis, was consistent with psychophysical biases induced by manipulation of stimulus duration, and produced neurometric discrimination thresholds similar to behavioral psychophysical thresholds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Touch