Dynamic and distributed properties of many-neuron ensembles in the ventral posterior medial thalamus of awake rats.
The traditional view that the map of the face in the ventral posterior medial thalamus (VPM) is static and highly discrete was derived largely from qualitative studies that reported only small, robust, and nonoverlapping receptive fields (RFs). Here, by using more quantitative techniques, we have provided evidence for an alternative hypothesis: the RFs in the VPM are large and overlapping and tend to shift as a function of post-stimulus time. These results were obtained through simultaneous recordings of up to 23 single neurons across the whisker representation in the VPM of rats. Under both awake and anesthetized conditions, these neurons responded robustly at short (4-6 ms) and/or long (15-25 ms) latencies to discrete vibromechanical stimulation of single facial whiskers. Computer graphics were used to construct three-dimensional plots depicting the magnitudes of neuronal responses to stimulation of each of several whiskers as a function of post-stimulus time. These "spatiotemporal RFs" demonstrated that (i) the RFs of VPM neurons are quite large, covering up to 20 whiskers and (ii) the spatial locations of these RFs may shift dramatically over the first 35 ms of post-stimulus time, especially from the caudal-most to the rostral-most whiskers on the face. These results suggest that the VPM contains a dynamic and distributed representation of the face, in which stimulus information is coded in both spatial and temporal domains.
Nicolelis, MA; Lin, RC; Woodward, DJ; Chapin, JK
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