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Somatosensory maps

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    Somatosensory areas containing topographic maps of the body surface are a major feature of parietal cortex. In primates, parietal cortex contains four somatosensory areas, each with its own map, with the primary cutaneous map in area 3b. Rodents have at least three parietal somatosensory areas. Maps are not isomorphic to the body surface, but magnify behaviorally important skin regions, which include the hands and face in primates, and the whiskers in rodents. Within each map, intracortical circuits process tactile information, mediate spatial integration, and support active sensation. Maps may also contain fine-scale representations of touch submodalities, or direction of tactile motion. Functional representations are more overlapping than suggested by textbook depictions of map topography. The whisker map in rodent somatosensory cortex is a canonic system for studying cortical microcircuits, sensory coding, and map plasticity. Somatosensory maps are plastic throughout life in response to altered use or injury. This chapter reviews basic principles and recent findings in primate, human, and rodent somatosensory maps. KEYWORDS:

    barrel cortex; cortical columns; map plasticity; somatosensory cortex; somatosensory maps; whisker