The SI forelimb area of cats was examined with receptive field (RF) mapping techniques. Arrays of closely spaced, near-radial microelectrode penetrations were inserted into the crown of postsigmoid gyrus of ketamine anesthetized subjects and minimal RFs were obtained at several depths. The minimal RF was defined as the skin site providing the strongest input to each recorded cluster of neurons. Data analysis showed that all studied cortical territories contained groups of discrete cortical columns, 300-400 microns in diameter. The columns were regarded as topographic entities because no change in minimal RF location could be observed within their boundaries. The boundaries of columns were sharp and could be unequivocally distinguished because the minimal RFs sampled on opposite sides of a boundary occupied displaced, nonoverlapping positions. Pair-wise comparison of single neuron maximal RFs (defined as the entire skin area providing input to the recorded neuron) further clarified the nature of the SI place-defined columns: (1) no systematic differences in maximal RF position could be demonstrated for different parts of the same column (even though the maximal RFs in most columns varied extensively in size and skin areas covered), and (2) at the boundary between neighboring columns maximal RFs shifted en masse to center on a new skin locus. These minimal and maximal RF observations strongly support our recent proposal that body surface is represented in SI by a honeycomblike mosaic of discrete place-defined cortical columns, segregates.