The behavioural impairments and subsequent recovery were studied in rats with circumscribed unilateral lesions in the somatic sensorimotor cortex (SMC). Lesions were made in the caudal forelimb region (CFL), the rostral forelimb region (RFL), the anteromedial cortex (AMC) or the hindlimb area. Rats with damage in the CFL produced a deficit in placing the forelimb contralateral to the lesion during exploratory locomotion on a grid surface. Rats with AMC damage circled in the direction ipsilateral to the lesion. Lesions in the CFL or AMC produced an ipsilateral somatosensorimotor asymmetry on the bilateral-stimulation test (responding to adhesive patches placed on the contralateral forelimb was slower) that recovered in 7 days following AMC lesions or 28 days following CFL lesions. Finally, RFL lesions produced an ipsilateral asymmetry on the bilateral-stimulation task that was more severe and enduring (recovery in 60 days). After behavioral recovery, the effects of an additional lesion placed in the homotopic contralateral cortex were examined (two-stage bilateral lesion). Rats receiving two-stage bilateral lesions in the RFL or CFL responded slower to tactile stimulation of the forelimb contralateral to the second lesion. In the case of CFL-damaged rats, placing deficits also appeared contralateral to the most recent injury. In contrast, rats receiving two-stage bilateral AMC lesions did not exhibit behavioral asymmetries following the second lesion. These results provide evidence to suggest that subdivisions of the rat SMC can be distinguished with lesion/behavioral experiments. Moreover, a comparison of the effects of unilateral and two-stage bilateral lesions may help in the parcellation of the rat SMC into functionally distinct subareas and provide a basis for studying the processes of recovery and maintenance of function following brain damage.