Infant macaques recover tactile abilities better than older animals after somatosensory cortical lesions. To investigate the neural basis of this phenomenon, we ablated the hand representation in primary somatosensory cortex (SI) of infant and juvenile Macaca mulatta and recorded in ipsilateral second somatosensory cortex (SII) a year later. We also made tracer injections to verify the lesion boundaries and to study the connections of SII after the lesion of SI. Similar to the report of Pons et al. (Science 237:417‐420, '87), we found that substantial portions of the SII hand area were unresponsive to cutaneous stimulation of the hand in both age groups. Particularly, there were no cutaneous receptive fields restricted to the digits. Some responses were elicited in each animal by mechanical stimulation of the hand, including a proportion related to cutaneous receptive fields. This proportion was higher in the infants than in the juveniles, which may explain the greater capacity of the infants for recovery of tactile function after SI lesions. The residual somatic drive in the SII hand area of the juveniles was attributable to sparing of parts of areas 3a and 3b. However, in the infants, this explanation was not tenable since the responses noted in SII occurred even after total ablations of the postcentral gyrus. The pattern of corticocortical connections revealed by injections of HRP into the medial margin of the SI lesion and of Fast Blue into SII in one infant confirmed the absence of SI inputs to the region of SII where responses were recorded from the hand. Representations of body parts other than the hand were normally responsive, and their location was consistent with normal somatotopy in SII.
- brain damage
- parietal lobe