Whisker system


The whisker system is a sensorimotor system used by animals such as rodents to collect environmental information. Nerve endings in the follicle convert whisker movement into action potentials and information is transmitted to the somatosensory cortex. Moving the whiskers back and forth – whisking – can provide additional information about objects encountered.

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research | | open

    Barrel cortex contains a functional map of whiskers but how neuronal activity maps multi-whisker inputs has not been studied. Here the authors show that while uncorrelated multi-whisker stimuli activate barrel neurons, correlated multi-whisker inputs activate neurons in a ring at the barrel-septa boundary

    • Luc Estebanez
    • , Julien Bertherat
    • , Daniel E. Shulz
    • , Laurent Bourdieu
    •  & Jean- François Léger
  • Research |

    The authors find that the portion of rat somatosensory cortex representing the trident whiskers—a set of whiskers specialized for ground contact during exploration—encodes information about speed and acceleration of the animal. Microstimulation of this area alters running speed, consistent with the idea that trident whiskers and their neural representation could serve as a tactile speedometer.

    • Edith Chorev
    • , Patricia Preston-Ferrer
    •  & Michael Brecht
    Nature Neuroscience 19, 1367–1373
  • Research |

    Feedforward and feedback synaptic pathways shape how neural activity evolves across cortical areas, but they are difficult to monitor using traditional methods during behavior. The authors use pathway-specific and cellular-resolution in vivo imaging to quantify sensory and decision-related neural activity both within and propagating between two cortical areas critical for touch perception.

    • Sung Eun Kwon
    • , Hongdian Yang
    • , Genki Minamisawa
    •  & Daniel H O'Connor
    Nature Neuroscience 19, 1243–1249
  • Research |

    Sensory cortex spiking is well known to predict trial-to-trial variability in perceptual choice, but the origins of this choice-related activity are not fully understood. In the mouse somatosensory system, electrophysiology, imaging and optogenetic experiments reveal a progression of choice-related activity as touch signals flow from primary afferents to cortex.

    • Hongdian Yang
    • , Sung E Kwon
    • , Kyle S Severson
    •  & Daniel H O'Connor
    Nature Neuroscience 19, 127–134
  • Research |

    Wallach et al. use closed-loop artificial whisking in anesthetized rats to show that vibrissal mechanoreceptors extract phase information from on-going whisker kinematics in a frequency- and amplitude-invariant manner. Brainstem paralemniscal neurons preserve this phase information while filtering out information about whisker offset; lemniscal neurons preserve both types of information.

    • Avner Wallach
    • , Knarik Bagdasarian
    •  & Ehud Ahissar
    Nature Neuroscience 19, 487–493

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