Intra-operative micro-electrode stimulation of sensorimotor thalamus produces paraesthesia or tingling in various body regions and is used to map somatotopy prior to implantation of deep brain-stimulating electrodes in awake patients. The neural elements affected by such microstimulation are unknown. Using paraesthesia as the behavioural-physiological response threshold, we measured chronaxie times for microstimuli applied to both somatosensory thalamic nuclei (cellular region) and its axonal afferents, the medial lemniscus. White matter chronaxie times were relatively unimodal, whereas two different clusters of chronaxie times were identified in grey matter: one corresponding to that of the medial lemniscus and the other about five times longer and compatible with that obtained from cell somata. Therefore, excitations of local axons and/or cell bodies can both contribute to the paraesthesia evoked during intra-operative thalamic mapping.