Bilateral integration of whisker information in the primary somatosensory cortex of rats.
The isomorphic representation of the contralateral whisker pad in the rodent cerebral cortex has served as a canonical example in primary somatosensory areas that the contralateral body surface is spatially represented as a topographic map. By characterizing responses evoked by multiwhisker stimuli, we provide direct evidence that the whisker region of the rat primary somatosensory cortex (SI) integrates information from both contralateral and ipsilateral whisker pads. The proportions of SI neurons responsive to ipsilateral whisker stimuli, as well as their response probabilities, increased with the number of ipsilateral whiskers stimulated. Under bilateral whisker stimulation, the responses of 95% of neurons recorded were affected by stimulation of ipsilateral whiskers. Contralateral tactile responses of SI neurons were profoundly influenced by preceding ipsilateral stimuli and vice versa. This effect depended on both the spatial location and the relative timing of bilateral whisker stimuli, leading to both spatial and temporal asymmetries of interaction. Bilateral whisker stimulation resulted in only modest changes in evoked response latency. Previous ipsilateral stimulation was also shown to affect tactile responses evoked by later ipsilateral stimuli. Inactivation of the opposite SI abolished ipsilaterally evoked responses as well as their influence on subsequently evoked contralateral responses in the intact SI. Based on these results, we conclude that the rat SI integrates information from both whisker pads and propose that such interactions may underlie the ability of rats to discriminate bilateral tactile stimuli.
Shuler, MG; Krupa, DJ; Nicolelis, MA
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