Responses of 66 neurons in primary somatosensory cortex (SI) of three anesthetized monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were characterized with grating patterns of 550- to 2900-mm groove width (Gw) and 250-mm ridge width, and/or pairs of 3-mm-wide ridges (bars) spaced 1-20 mm apart. Surfaces were stroked across single fingertips at parametrically varied levels of force ('25-150 g) and velocity ('25-100 mm/sec). The average firing rates (AFRs) of many cells varied with Gw, but force and velocity altered response functions (e.g., from linear to plateau or inverted). Slowly adapting (SA) cells were more sensitive to force, rapidly adapting (RA) cells to velocity. Force and velocity affected all cells sensitive to Gw, which suggests that response independence (e.g., AFR correlated with Gw but not force or velocity) may require active touch. Discharge intervals of many cells replicated stimulus temporal period. This temporal fidelity in SAs far exceeded examples reported for active touch. However, discharge burst duration and AFR increased with Gw, supporting a neural rate rather than temporal code for roughness. Force and velocity altered the Gw at which some cells fired once in phase to stimulus cycle ('tuning point'). Responses to bar edges suggest cortical replication of peripheral mechanoreceptor sensitivity to skin curvature, leading to this temporal fidelity in some cortical cells. Graded RA responses to Gw without obvious stimulus temporal replication may reflect early stages of integrative processing in supra- and infragranular layers that blur obvious temporal patterning and lead to a rate code correlated with spatial variation and proportional to perceived roughness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-306
Number of pages20
JournalSomatosensory and Motor Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1996


  • Hand
  • Parietal cortex
  • Passive touch
  • Sensory cortex
  • Single neurons
  • Tactile


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