ABSTRACT: Human functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioral studies have established the roles of cortical areas along the Sylvian fissure in sensing subjective pain. Yet, little is known about how sensory aspects of painful information are represented and processed by neurons in these regions and how their electrophysiological activities are related to fMRI signals. The current study aims to partially address this critical knowledge gap by performing fMRI-guided microelectrode mapping and recording studies in the homologous region of the parietal operculum in squirrel monkeys under light anesthesia. In each animal studied (n = 8), we detected mesoscale mini-networks for heat nociception in cortical regions around the lateral sulcus. Within the network, we discovered a ∼1.5 × 1.5-mm2-sized cortical patch that solely contained heat nociceptive neurons that aligned with the heat fMRI activation locus. These neurons responded slowly to thermal (heat and cold) nociceptive stimuli exclusively, continued firing for several seconds after the succession of stimulation, and exhibited multidigit receptive fields and high spontaneous firing rates. Similar to the fMRI responses, increasing temperatures in the nociceptive range led to a nonlinear increase in firing rates. The finding of a clustering of heat nociceptive neurons provides novel insights into the unique functional organization of thermal nociception in the S2 subregion of the primate brain. With fMRI, it supports the existence of a modality-preferred heat nociceptive patch that is spatially separated and intermingled with touch patches containing neurons with comparable receptive fields and the presence of functionally distinct mini-networks in primate opercular cortex.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine