Representation of Tactile Scenes in the Rodent Barrel Cortex Article - Janvier 2018

Luc Estebanez, Isabelle Ferezou, Valérie Ego-Stengel, Daniel E. Shulz

Luc Estebanez, Isabelle Ferezou, Valérie Ego-Stengel, Daniel E. Shulz, « Representation of Tactile Scenes in the Rodent Barrel Cortex  », Neuroscience, janvier 2018, pp. 81-94. ISSN 0306-4522


After half a century of research, the sensory features coded by neurons of the rodent barrel cortex remain poorly understood. Still, views of the sensory representation of whisker information are increasingly shifting from a labeled line representation of single-whisker deflections to a selectivity for specific elements of the complex statistics of the multi-whisker deflection patterns that take place during spontaneous rodent behavior - so called natural tactile scenes. Here we review the current knowledge regarding the coding of patterns of whisker stimuli by barrel cortex neurons, from responses to single-whisker deflections to the representation of complex tactile scenes. A number of multi-whisker tunings have already been identified, including center-surround feature extraction, angular tuning during edge-like multi-whisker deflections, and even tuning to specific statistical properties of the tactile scene such as the level of correlation across whiskers. However, a more general model of the representation of multi-whisker information in the barrel cortex is still missing. This is in part because of the lack of a human intuition regarding the perception emerging from a whisker system, but also because in contrast to other primary sensory cortices such as the visual cortex, the spatial feature selectivity of barrel cortex neurons rests on highly nonlinear interactions that remained hidden to classical receptive field approaches.

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