, Volume 196, Issue 2, pp 239-251
Date: 24 May 2009

Somatosensory and multisensory properties of the medial bank of the ferret rostral suprasylvian sulcus

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Abstract

In ferret cortex, the rostral portion of the suprasylvian sulcus separates primary somatosensory cortex (SI) from the anterior auditory fields. The boundary of the SI extends to this sulcus, but the adjoining medial sulcal bank has been described as “unresponsive.” Given its location between the representations of two different sensory modalities, it seems possible that the medial bank of the rostral suprasylvian sulcus (MRSS) might be multisensory in nature and contains neurons responsive to stimuli not examined by previous studies. The aim of this investigation was to determine if the MRSS contained tactile, auditory and/or multisensory neurons and to evaluate if its anatomical connections were consistent with these properties. The MRSS was found to be primarily responsive to low-threshold cutaneous stimulation, with regions of the head, neck and upper trunk represented somatotopically that were primarily connected with the SI face representation. Unlike the adjoining SI, the MRSS exhibited a different cytoarchitecture, its cutaneous representation was largely bilateral, and it contained a mixture of somatosensory, auditory and multisensory neurons. Despite the presence of multisensory neurons, however, auditory inputs exerted only modest effects on tactile processing in MRSS neurons and showed no influence on the averaged population response. These results identify the MRSS as a distinct, higher order somatosensory region as well as demonstrate that an area containing multisensory neurons may not necessarily exhibit activity indicative of multisensory processing at the population level.