Corticostriatal transformations in the primate somatosensory system. Projections from physiologically mapped body-part representations

J Neurophysiol. 1991 Oct;66(4):1249-63. doi: 10.1152/jn.1991.66.4.1249.


1. The basal ganglia of primates receive somatosensory input carried largely by corticostriatal fibers. To determine whether map-transformations occur in this corticostriatal system, we investigated how electrophysiologically defined regions of the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) project to the striatum in the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus). Receptive fields in the hand, mouth, and foot representations of cortical areas 3a, 3b, and 1 were mapped by multiunit recording; and small volumes of distinguishable anterograde tracers were injected into different body-part representations in single SI areas. 2. Analysis of labeled projections established that at least four types of systematic remapping occur in the primate corticostriatal system. 1) An area of cortex representing a single body part sends fibers that diverge to innervate multiple regions in the putamen, forming branching, patchy fields that are densest in the lateral putamen. The fields do not form elongated cylindrical forms; rather, they are nearly as extended mediolaterally as they are rostrocaudally. 2) Cortical regions representing hand, mouth, and foot send globally somatotopic, nonoverlapping projections to the putamen, but regions with closely related representations (such as those of the thumb and 5th finger in area 3b) send convergent, overlapping corticostriatal projections. The overlap is fairly precise in the caudal putamen, but in the rostral putamen the densest zones of the projections do not overlap. 3) Regions representing homologous body parts in different SI cortical areas send projections that converge in the putamen. This was true of paired projections from areas 3a and 3b, and from areas 3b and 1. Thus corticostriatal inputs representing distinct somatosensory submodalities can project to the same local regions within the striatum. Convergence is not always complete, however: in the rostral putamen of two cases comparing projections from areas 3a and 1, the densest zones of the projections did not overlap. 4) All projections from SI avoid striosomes and innervate discrete zones within the matrix. 3. These experiments demonstrate that the somatosensory representations of the body are reorganized as they are projected from SI to the somatosensory sector of the primate putamen. This remapping suggests that the striatal representation of the body may be functionally distinct from that of each area of SI. The patchy projections may provide a basis for redistribution of somatosensory information to discrete output systems in the basal ganglia. Transformations in the corticostriatal system could thus be designed for modulating different movement-related programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / cytology
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Foot / innervation
  • Hand / innervation
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Methionine / metabolism
  • Mouth / innervation
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Putamen / cytology
  • Saimiri
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Sulfur Radioisotopes
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins


  • Sulfur Radioisotopes
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins
  • Methionine
  • Horseradish Peroxidase