Heterogeneous integration of bilateral whisker signals by neurons in primary somatosensory cortex of awake rats.
Bilateral single-unit recordings in primary somatosensory cortex (S1) of anesthetized rats have revealed substantial cross talk between cortical hemispheres, suggesting the possibility that behaviorally relevant bilateral integration could occur in S1. To determine the extent of bilateral neural responses in awake animals, we recorded S1 multi- and single-unit activity in head-immobilized rats while stimulating groups of 4 whiskers from the same column on both sides of the head. Results from these experiments confirm the widespread presence of single units responding to tactile stimuli on either side of the face in S1 of awake animals. Quantification of bilateral integration by multiunits revealed both facilitative and suppressive integration of bilateral inputs. Varying the interval between left and right whisker stimuli between 0 and 120 ms showed the temporal integration of bilateral stimuli to be dominated on average by suppression at intervals around 30 ms, in agreement with comparable recordings in anesthetized animals. Contrary to the anesthetized data, in the awake animals we observed a high level of heterogeneity of bilateral responses and a strong interaction between synchronous bilateral stimuli. The results challenge the traditional conception of highly segregated hemispheric processing channels in the rat S1 cortex, and support the hypothesis that callosal cross-projections between the two hemispheres mediate rats' known ability to integrate bilateral whisker signals.
Wiest, MC; Bentley, N; Nicolelis, MAL
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