Computing with thalamocortical ensembles during different behavioural states.
A series of recent studies have indicated that ensembles of neurones, distributed within the neural structures that form the primary thalamocortical loop (TCL) of the trigeminal component of the rat somatosensory system, change the way they respond to similar tactile stimuli, according to both the behavioural strategy employed by animals to gather information and the animal's internal brain states. These findings suggest that top-down influences, which are more likely to play a role during active discrimination than during passive whisker stimulation, may alter the pattern of neuronal firing within both the distinct layers of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) and the ventral posterior medial nucleus (VPM). We propose that through this physiological process, which involves concurrent dynamic modulations at both cellular and circuit levels in the TCL, rats can either optimize the detection of novel or hard to sense stimuli or they can analyse complex patterns of multi-whisker stimulation, during natural exploration of their surrounding environment.
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