This project entails an effort aimed at understanding how we sense tactile/touch, and how this is influenced by the state of the brain. The brain goes through many different changes in state, from asleep to awake but non-alert, to alert and attentive, but how the outside world is sensed in these different situations is unknown. This project utilizes a powerful experimental model, the rodent whisker system, which shares many of the same features as the human fingertip, and combines this with measurement of the electrical signals of the neurons in the associated parts of the brain. The project is a special collaborative project between the laboratory of Dr. Garrett Stanley at Georgia Tech in the USA and the laboratory of Dr. Cornelius Schwarz at the University of Tuebingen in Germany, in an effort to foster interactions between scientists in the two countries in the area of Computational Neuroscience. Success in this project will have important implications for the development of prosthetic devices for delivering sensation to individuals who have lost sensory function due to disease or trauma. Further, through the Georgia Tech GIFT program, the Stanley and Schwarz laboratories will partner with the CEISMC (Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing) program to work with a science teacher and a small group of students at a local Georgia high school serving the underrepresented population.
This project is jointly funded by Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience and the Office of International Science and Engineering. A companion project is being funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).