Relationships between sensory responsiveness and premovement activity of quickly adapting neurons in areas 3b and 1 of monkey primary somatosensory cortex

R. J. Nelson, B. N. Smith, V. D. Douglas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


When monkeys make wrist movements in response to vibration of their hands, primary somatosensory (SI) cortical neurons that adapt quickly to the vibratory stimulus often exhibit two temporally separate types of activity. Initially, these neurons respond to the stimulus. They then cease discharging, only to resume firing prior to the movement. This activation, cessation and reactivation occurs even though the sensory stimulus remains on until after the movement is begun. The first change in activity is most likely related to sensory input. The second, which has been called premovement activity, may have a sensory component as well as one related to the upcoming movement. We wanted to test the hypothesis that the premovement activity exhibited when vibration is present represents both a reactivation of a neuron's vibratory response and the premovement activity that normally occurs when vibration is absent. We also wanted to determine if area 3b and 1 quickly adapting (QA) neurons show similar or different activity patterns during the initiation and execution of sensory triggered wrist movements. Four monkeys were trained to make wrist flexion and extension movements in response to vibratory stimuli delivered to the handle which the animals used to control the behavioral paradigm. Two of the four monkeys also made similar wrist movements following visual cues. We found that the premovement activity of QA neurons located in area 1 (but not area 3b) is comprised of a sensory-related component as well as a movement-related component. The magnitude of these individual components differs in relationship to a neuron's receptive field type, the movement direction and the external force imposed on the stimulated forelimb. Premovement activity of area 3b and area 1 QA neurons occurs at the same time prior to movement, regardless of whether visual or vibratory cues are used to trigger wrist movements. This activity occurs at about the same time as others have observed elevations in the threshold for tactile perception, suggesting that premovement activity and changes in sensory responsiveness before movement may be related. These and previous findings are used to construct a model which may predict the firing patterns of SI QA neurons during behavioral tasks. These findings also suggest that areas 3b and 1 may have different roles in processing task-related somatosensory information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-90
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1991


  • Monkey
  • Premovement activity
  • Sensory responses
  • Somatosensory cortex
  • Wrist movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Relationships between sensory responsiveness and premovement activity of quickly adapting neurons in areas 3b and 1 of monkey primary somatosensory cortex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this