The organization and mutability of the forepaw and hindpaw representations in the somatosensory cortex of the neonatal rat

J Comp Neurol. 1987 Feb 8;256(2):246-56. doi: 10.1002/cne.902560205.


The present study demonstrates that the primary somatosensory cortex of the rat contains a map of the entire body surface that is discernible with a routine anatomical staining technique, the succinic dehydrogenase reaction. The overall proportions of this map are relatively constant from rat to rat and very similar to those reported in previous physiological investigations (Welker: Brain Res. 26:259-275, '71, J. Comp. Neurol. 166:173-190, '76). We found 67% of the map to be related to the head of the rat, 15% to the forelimb, 14% to the trunk, and 4% to the hindlimb. Within the forelimb and hindlimb representations, there is a consistent internal organization that can be related to specific peripheral structures (digits or palm pads). Further, damage to either the periphery or the nerves innervating these regions on the day of birth produces disruptions in the normal pattern, but damage on day 6 or later does not. We interpret these results as indicating that the role of the periphery in organizing central neuronal structures during development previously demonstrated for the trigeminal system extends to the entire rat somatosensory system. Comparison of the present results with physiological studies of adult cortical maps after peripheral damage suggests to us that different substrates underlie the changes reported in the adult.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Extremities / innervation*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Somatosensory Cortex / enzymology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / growth & development
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase


  • Succinate Dehydrogenase