The present study examines patterns of connectivity between the primary somatosensory cortex of the rat (SI) and surrounding cortical areas also implicated in the processing of somatosensory information. The impetus for the study was the recent reports of major differences in the organization of cortex lateral and caudal to the SI in two other rodent species; the mouse (Carvell and Simons, '86: Somatosens. Res. 3:213-237; '87: J. Comp. Neurol. 265:409-427) and the grey squirrel (Krubitzer et al., '86: J. Comp. Neurol 250: 403-430). Corticocortical connections between the somatosensory areas of the rat parietal cortex were examined by using the combined retrograde and anterograde transport of horseradish peroxidase as well as the retrograde transport of fluorescent tracers. Tracer injections were made into different locations within SI and dysgranular cortex as well as into more lateral regions of parietal cortex. The tangential patterns of distribution both of callosal connections and of cytochrome oxidase activity together provided points of reference in determining the relation between injection sites and the resultant patterns of label. The results indicate that two distinct somatosensory areas, SI and the dysgranular cortex, are interconnected with a further lateral somatosensory area referred to as the second somatosensory area (SII). These projections are organized in a topographic fashion, which we interpret as evidence for a single representation of the body surface in SII. The three somatosensory areas each exhibit unique laminar patterns of ipsilateral corticocortical projection neurons and terminations. In SI, projection neurons are found mainly in layers II, III, and Va, and terminations are largely restricted to the infragranular layers. In the dysgranular cortex, projection neurons and terminations are found in all layers except layer I in which only terminal label is detectable and layer Vb in which notably fewer neurons are labelled. In SII, projection neurons and terminations are found in all layers except layer I and are particularly dense in lower layer III and layer IV. Further, whereas the laminar and areal distributions of ipsilateral and contralateral corticocortical projections largely overlap in both SI and the dysgranular cortex, in SII they tend to be areally segregated. Neurons projecting bilaterally to both ipsilateral and contralateral somatosensory cortex were equally rare in all three somatosensory areas. These results are discussed in relation to the organization of SII in other rodent species, and it is concluded that in the rat, like the mouse, cortex lateral and caudal to SI contains a single representation of the body surface.