Thalamic VPM nucleus in the behaving monkey. II. Response to air-puff stimulation during discrimination and attention tasks

J Neurophysiol. 1993 Mar;69(3):753-63. doi: 10.1152/jn.1993.69.3.753.


1. Single-unit activity was recorded in the ventral posterior medial (VPM) thalamic nucleus of awake monkeys while they performed detection and discrimination tasks involving tactile air-puff stimuli presented to the face. Neuronal responsiveness was compared directly with the monkey's discriminative performance. In addition, neuronal activity was compared when the monkey's attention was directed to the air-puff stimulus and when it was directed to a concurrent visual stimulus. 2. Neurons responding to the air-puff stimuli were classified as slowly adapting (SA), rapidly adapting (RA), inhibitory (IN), or multimodal (MM), according to their responses to manual and thermal stimulation, as well as their adaption rates to the air puff. Of 47 neurons responsive to air-puff stimulation and studied extensively in the behavioral task, 14 were classified as RA, 15 as SA, 6 as IN, and 12 as MM. The 12 MM neurons were so classified because, in addition to air puff, they responded to noxious heat, innocuous cooling, or noxious pinch. 3. Neurons from each class had restricted contralateral receptive fields localized within one division of the trigeminal nerve. There was no systematic difference in receptive-field size among groups. 4. A prominent difference in tactile responsiveness of MM neurons was response latency. Although the mean latency for RA, SA, and IN neurons was not significantly different (6.1, 9.1, and 12.2 ms, respectively), the mean latency for MM neurons was significantly longer than that for each of the other neuronal categories (28.8 ms; Ps < 0.001). These data suggest that the excitatory tactile afferent input to MM neurons is different from that to low-threshold neurons. 5. For RA, SA, and MM neurons the frequency of the neuronal discharge evoked by the air-puff stimulation was proportional to the intensity of the air puff. Thus responses of each neuronal class coded air-puff stimulus intensity. 6. The monkeys' ability to detect air-puff stimuli of various intensities was compared with the frequency of neuronal responses to those stimuli. Both the percent success in detecting differences in air-puff intensity and the detection latency were highly correlated with neuronal response frequency. The responses of all three excitatory neuronal categories corresponded well with the monkey's performance. Thus any or all of RA, SA, and MM neurons could play a role in the discrimination of air-puff intensities.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Face / innervation
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology*