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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 and 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 the selection of neuromodulation targets for chronic pain management. Primate S1 subregions contain discrete heat and cold nociceptive modules. Modules with the same properties exhibit strong functional connection. Nociceptive fMRI response coincides with LFP and spike activities of nociceptive neurons. Functional separation of heat and cold pain is retained within primate S1 cortex.
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