Neuronal Integration in the Somatosensory Whisker/Barrel Cortex

  • Daniel J. Simons
Part of the Cerebral Cortex book series (CECO, volume 11)


Seminal studies of the physiological organization of the somatosensory cortex of cats and monkeys suggested that it was comprised of replicated, local neuronal circuits which process afferent information from the thalamus (Mountcastle, 1957; Mountcastle and Powell, 1959). Subsequently, investigations of different cortical areas in a variety of species supported these conclusions by confirming that neurons that are located in vertical register with each other typically have similar receptive field properties and that certain of these properties change, sometimes rather abruptly, with horizontal position in the cortical tissue. The visualization of strikingly regular anatomic patterns in some cortical areas has reinforced the concept of iterated modularity as a fundamental principle of cortical organization. Though the defining characteristics of modules in different cortical regions are not consistent (Purves et al., 1992), a recent comprehensive review by White and Keller (see White, 1989) has identified rules of synaptic connectivity which form the basis of local cortical circuits, and these are likely to be applicable regardless of the gross morphological features of a particular cortical region. Increasingly there is a recognition that, even in primary sensory areas, local circuits are capable of changing in response to short- as well as long-term demands of the sensory environment. Indeed, several influential theories of cortical function ascribe a critical role to dynamic behaviors of neuronal assemblies, whether they be of a local or a distributed nature (Hebb, 1949; Mountcastle, 1979; Edelman, 1987).


Conditioning Stimulus Receptive Field Somatosensory Cortex Nucleus Basalis Magnocellularis Receptive Field Property 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel J. Simons
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurobiologyUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA

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