This study addresses one long-standing question of whether functional separations are preserved for somatosensory modalities of touch, heat and cold nociception within primate primary somatosensory (S1) cortex. This information is critical for understanding how the nature of pain is represented in the primate brain. Using a combination of submillimeter-resolution fMRI and microelectrode local field potential (LFP) and spike recordings, we identified spatially-segregated cortical zones for processing touch, nociceptive heat and cold stimuli in somatotopically appropriate areas 3a, 3b, 1, and 2 of S1 in male monkeys. The distances between zones were comparable (∼ 3.4 mm) across stimulus modalities (heat, cold, and tactile), indicating the existence of uniform, modality-specific modules. Stimulus-evoked LFP maps validated the fMRI maps in areas 3b and 1. Isolation of heat and cold nociceptive neurons from the fMRI zones confirmed the validity of using fMRI to probe nociceptive regions and circuits. Resting state fMRI analysis revealed distinct intrinsic functional circuits among functionally related zones. We discovered distinct modular structures and networks for thermal nociception within S1 cortex, a finding that has significant implications for studying chronic pain syndromes and guiding selection of neuromodulation targets for chronic pain management.
- Local field potential
ASJC Scopus subject areas