A discontinuous representation of the forelimb body surface in area 3b is proposed. Two different methods were used: single-neuron receptive-field (RF) mapping in unanesthetized cats (maximal RF) and multiunit RF mapping in deeply anesthetized cats (minimal RF). Ten or more maximal RFs were sampled in each of 14 near-radial microelectrode penetrations. In 6 penetrations, the maximal RFs of all sampled neurons (despite prominent variations in RF size and shape) shared in common a small skin area--termed the "RF center." Each of the remaining penetrations had to be divided into at least two segments (6 penetrations) or three segments (2 penetrations), for all maximal RFs mapped in a segment to include a common skin site. In six penetrations, after maximal RFs were mapped, deep general anesthesia was induced and minimal RFs were mapped in the same penetration at cortical sites separated by 150 microns. Minimal RFs closely matched the RF centers defined by maximal RFs in the same penetration. In penetrations that mapped two or three RF centers, a rapid transition in minimal RF position was detected at the same cortical site where the shift in RF center was detected. Closely spaced penetrations revealed discrete cortical columns, having the size and shape of 350- to 400-microns-diameter irregular hexagons, such that the identical minimal RF was mapped at any site within a column. The forelimb body surface in cat 3b thus appears to be represented by a mosaic of discrete columns--an organization similar to the whisker representation in rodent primary somatosensory cortex.