We address active sensation in the context of tactile localization of objects accomplished by exploratory whisking movements of the rat vibrissae. Our guiding hypothesis is that neural representations that span closed sensorimotor loops underlie the localization of objects by actively moving sensors. Past work has established two forms of vibrissa sensorimotor signals that, in principle, can be used by the rat for computing contact and object localization in head-centered coordinates. One is a contact-independent reference signal that codes for vibrissa angle as animals actively whisk. The second form is a contact-based signal whose cortical representation during whisking, as opposed to the representation for primary neurons, remains to be characterized in awake behaving animals. We propose to probe the convergence of sensor position and sensor contact information. This serves to delineate the computation of active vibrissa touch in head-centered coordinates and the subsequent motor control of the vibrissae. Our program is conducted at two levels: that of the brainstem sensorimotor loop and that of cortical signaling. We ask: What is the role of feedback at the level of the brainstem, which provides relatively fast signaling, in directing the motion of the vibrissae? This feedback will necessarily change the nature of a touch signal this is processed by higher-order brain areas. How does the rat fuse signals of vibrissa position with those of touch in vibrissa primary sensory (S1) cortex as it palpates a target? This inquiry can establish the neural representation of contact in head- centered coordinates. How is vibrissa position represented by spike trains in primary motor (M1) cortex and further, does M1 control vibrissa motion? These concurrent inquiries can establish the transformation of sensory feedback into motor control. What is the nature of signaling between vibrissa S1 and M1 cortices during exploratory whisking and touch? Investigations of sensorimotor control are fundamental to the understanding dystonias, i.e., disorders of motor function. The nested, closed loop structure of the vibrissa system parallels other architectures, such as the trigeminal loop involved in the cranial dystonia blepharospam and the corticostriatal loops involved in Parkinsonian tremors. Thus the vibrissa system provides an experimentally accessible computational test- bed for fundamental concepts in neuromuscular control.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Sensorimotor Integration Study Section (SMI)
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Gnadt, James W
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University of California San Diego
Schools of Arts and Sciences
La Jolla
United States
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Kurnikova, Anastasia; Moore, Jeffrey D; Liao, Song-Mao et al. (2017) Coordination of Orofacial Motor Actions into Exploratory Behavior by Rat. Curr Biol 27:688-696
Deschênes, Martin; Kurnikova, Anastasia; Elbaz, Michael et al. (2016) Circuits in the Ventral Medulla That Phase-Lock Motoneurons for Coordinated Sniffing and Whisking. Neural Plast 2016:7493048
Deschênes, Martin; Takatoh, Jun; Kurnikova, Anastasia et al. (2016) Inhibition, Not Excitation, Drives Rhythmic Whisking. Neuron 90:374-87
Knutsen, Per M; Mateo, Celine; Kleinfeld, David (2016) Precision mapping of the vibrissa representation within murine primary somatosensory cortex. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 371:
Aljadeff, Johnatan; Lansdell, Benjamin J; Fairhall, Adrienne L et al. (2016) Analysis of Neuronal Spike Trains, Deconstructed. Neuron 91:221-59
Kleinfeld, David; Deschênes, Martin; Ulanovsky, Nachum (2016) Whisking, Sniffing, and the Hippocampal ?-Rhythm: A Tale of Two Oscillators. PLoS Biol 14:e1002385
Moore, Jeffrey D; Deschênes, Martin; Kleinfeld, David (2015) Juxtacellular Monitoring and Localization of Single Neurons within Sub-cortical Brain Structures of Alert, Head-restrained Rats. J Vis Exp :
Deschênes, Martin; Haidarliu, Sebastian; Demers, Maxime et al. (2015) Muscles involved in naris dilation and nose motion in rat. Anat Rec (Hoboken) 298:546-53
Haidarliu, Sebastian; Kleinfeld, David; Deschênes, Martin et al. (2015) The Musculature That Drives Active Touch by Vibrissae and Nose in Mice. Anat Rec (Hoboken) 298:1347-58
Matthews, David W; Deschênes, Martin; Furuta, Takahiro et al. (2015) Feedback in the brainstem: an excitatory disynaptic pathway for control of whisking. J Comp Neurol 523:921-42

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