Unequivocal proof that the activity of a localized cortical neuronal population provides sufficient basis for a specific cognitive function has rarely been obtained. We looked for such proof in monkeys trained to discriminate between two mechanical flutter stimuli applied sequentially to the fingertips. Microelectrodes were inserted into clusters of quickly adapting (QA) neurons of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1), and the first or both stimuli were then substituted with trains of current pulses during the discrimination task. Psychophysical performance with artificial stimulus frequencies was almost identical to that measured with the natural stimulus frequencies. Our results indicate that microstimulation can be used to elicit a memorizable and discriminable analog range of percepts, and shows that activation of the QA circuit of S1 is sufficient to initiate all subsequent neural processes associated with flutter discrimination.
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