Remodelling of hand representation in adult cortex determined by timing of tactile stimulation

Nature. 1995 Nov 2;378(6552):71-5. doi: 10.1038/378071a0.


The primate somatosensory cortex, which processes tactile stimuli, contains a topographic representation of the signals it receives, but the way in which such maps are maintained is poorly understood. Previous studies of cortical plasticity indicated that changes in cortical representation during learning arise largely as a result of hebbian synaptic change mechanisms. Here we show, using owl monkeys trained to respond to specific stimulus sequence events, that serial application of stimuli to the fingers results in changes to the neuronal response specificity and maps of the hand surfaces in the true primary somatosensory cortical field (S1 area 3b). In this representational remodelling stimuli applied asychronously to the fingers resulted in these fingers being integrated in their representation, whereas fingers to which stimuli were applied asynchronously were segregated in their representation. Ventroposterior thalamus response maps derived in these monkeys were not equivalently reorganized. This representational plasticity appears to be cortical in origin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aotidae
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Hand / innervation*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Touch / physiology*