As in other sensory modalities, one function of the somatosensory system is to detect coherence and contrast in the environment. To investigate the neural bases of these computations, we applied different spatiotemporal patterns of stimuli to rat whiskers while recording multiple neurons in the barrel cortex. Model-based analysis of the responses revealed different coding schemes according to the level of input correlation. With uncorrelated stimuli on 24 whiskers, we identified two distinct functional categories of neurons, analogous in the temporal domain to simple and complex cells of the primary visual cortex. With correlated stimuli, however, a complementary coding scheme emerged: two distinct cell populations, similar to reinforcing and antagonist neurons described in the higher visual area MT, responded specifically to correlations. We suggest that similar context-dependent coexisting coding strategies may be present in other sensory systems to adapt sensory integration to specific stimulus statistics.
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- Supplementary Text and Figures (3M)
Supplementary Figures 1–12 and Supplementary Table 1