Animals, including humans, explore the environment using active strategies that involve moving their sensors (fingers, eyes). An excellent example of this type of behavior is active whisking in rodents. During active whisking, rats move their whiskers in stereotyped ways making contact with objects (active touch) to identify them and to explore the environment. An important problem is that sensory systems in the brain must detect the neural activity related to active touch by distinguishing it from the activity caused by moving the whiskers. The whiskers transmit this sensory information through primary sensory relay cells in the trigeminal complex, which produce two major ascending and contralateral pathways. One innervates the thalamus, leading primarily to the neocortex in the forebrain (trigeminothalamic), and the other innervates the deep layers of the superior colliculus in the midbrain tectum (trigeminotectal). The role of these two ascending pathways in the detection of active touch signals during exploratory whisking is poorly understood. We propose that the superior colliculus is a major sensory relay that serves to detect touch signals during exploratory behavior by differentiating movement-related and contact-related activity. Therefore, in agreement with its well-known role in orienting to novel stimuli, the superior colliculus is an essential component of the sensory circuitry responsible for the detection of sensory stimuli during active exploration. There are three goals in this project. The first goal is to determine the response properties of superior colliculus cells during whisking movement and touch. The second goal is to determine the role of superior colliculus afferents in driving and/or modulating the whisking responses. The third goal is to characterize the activity and response properties of superior colliculus cells as animals actively move their whiskers and detect behaviorally relevant sensory stimuli during exploratory behavior. The long term goal of this research project is to reveal the neural substrates of sensory detection and processing, which has direct relevance to many neurological disorders.

Public Health Relevance

This goal of this research is to determine the role of the superior colliculus, and other brain structures, in the detection and processing of sensory (tactile) stimuli during exploratory behavior. Such basic knowledge is vital to understand how the brain mediates normal behavior and has direct relevance to many neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as sensory neglect syndromes, learning disabilities, autism, anxiety disorders, and others.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01NS059036-07
Application #
8583354
Study Section
Sensorimotor Integration Study Section (SMI)
Program Officer
Gnadt, James W
Project Start
2007-12-15
Project End
2016-11-30
Budget Start
2013-12-01
Budget End
2014-11-30
Support Year
7
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
$304,172
Indirect Cost
$107,297
Name
Drexel University
Department
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
002604817
City
Philadelphia
State
PA
Country
United States
Zip Code
19104
Bezdudnaya, Tatiana; Castro-Alamancos, Manuel A (2014) Neuromodulation of whisking related neural activity in superior colliculus. J Neurosci 34:7683-95
Favero, Morgana; Castro-Alamancos, Manuel A (2013) Synaptic cooperativity regulates persistent network activity in neocortex. J Neurosci 33:3151-63
Cohen, Jeremy D; Castro-Alamancos, Manuel A (2010) Detection of low salience whisker stimuli requires synergy of tectal and thalamic sensory relays. J Neurosci 30:2245-56
Cohen, Jeremy D; Castro-Alamancos, Manuel A (2010) Neural correlates of active avoidance behavior in superior colliculus. J Neurosci 30:8502-11
Cohen, Jeremy D; Hirata, Akio; Castro-Alamancos, Manuel A (2008) Vibrissa sensation in superior colliculus: wide-field sensitivity and state-dependent cortical feedback. J Neurosci 28:11205-20
Hirata, Akio; Castro-Alamancos, Manuel A (2008) Cortical transformation of wide-field (multiwhisker) sensory responses. J Neurophysiol 100:358-70
Cohen, Jeremy D; Castro-Alamancos, Manuel A (2007) Early sensory pathways for detection of fearful conditioned stimuli: tectal and thalamic relays. J Neurosci 27:7762-76