Independent representations of self-motion and object location in barrel cortex output

by Jonathan Andrew Cheung, Phillip Maire, Jinho Kim, Kiana Lee, Garrett Flynn, Samuel Andrew Hires

During active tactile exploration, the dynamic patterns of touch are transduced to electrical signals and transformed by the brain into a mental representation of the object under investigation. This transformation from sensation to perception is thought to be a major function of the mammalian cortex. In primary somatosensory cortex (S1) of mice, layer 5 (L5) pyramidal neurons are major outputs to downstream areas that influence perception, decision-making, and motor control. We investigated self-motion and touch representations in L5 of S1 with juxtacellular loose-seal patch recordings of optogenetically identified excitatory neurons. We found that during rhythmic whisker movement, 54 of 115 active neurons (47%) represented self-motion. This population was significantly more modulated by whisker angle than by phase. Upon active touch, a distinct pattern of activity was evoked across L5, which represented the whisker angle at the time of touch. Object location was decodable with submillimeter precision from the touch-evoked spike counts of a randomly sampled handful of these neurons. These representations of whisker angle during self-motion and touch were independent, both in the selection of which neurons were active and in the angle-tuning preference of coactive neurons. Thus, the output of S1 transiently shifts from a representation of self-motion to an independent representation of explored object location during active touch.

Paper source
Plos Journal

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