1. The pattern of reorganization in area 3b of adult primates after median or ulnar nerve section suggests that somatic afferents from the dorsum of the hand, carried by the radial nerve, have preferential access to the cortical territories normally expressing glabrous inputs carried by the median and ulnar nerves. A likely mechanism underlying preferential access is preexisting, but silent, radial nerve inputs to the glabrous region of cortex. 2. We tested this by comparing the effects of electrical stimulation of median or ulnar versus radial nerves, on responses in the hand representation of area 3b. Laminar current source density and multiunit activity profiles were sampled with the use of linear array multicontact electrodes spanning the laminae of area 3b. Data were obtained from three squirrel monkeys anesthetized during recording. 3. Compared with colocated median or ulnar nerve responses, the radial nerve response had 1) an initial short-latency response in the middle laminae that was subtle; there was a small transmembrane current flow component without a discernable multiunit activity correlate: and 2) a laminar sequence and distribution of activity that was similar to those of the median or ulnar nerve responses (i.e., initial activation of the middle, followed by upper and lower laminae), but the significant current flow and multiunit response to radial nerve stimulation occurs 12-15 ms later. 4. Normal corepresentation of nondominant dorsum and (radial) inputs with the dominant (median or ulnar) inputs in the glabrous hand surface representation provides a clear vehicle for the biased patterns of reorganization occurring after peripheral nerve section. The initial, 'subtle' activity phase in the nondominant response is believed to reflect intracortical inhibition, and the later 'significant' response phase, a rebound excitation, possibly compounded by an indirect or extralemniscal input. The spatiotemporal pattern of nondominant input is proposed to play a role in normal somatosensory perception.
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