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J Neurosci Methods. 2010 May 30;189(1):80-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2010.03.010. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

Intrinsic optical imaging of directional selectivity in rat barrel cortex: application of a multidirectional magnetic whisker stimulator.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1097, One Brookings Drive, Saint-Louis, MO 63130, USA.


Using intrinsic optical imaging methods, somatosensory-evoked neural activity was visualized in the rat barrel cortex at high spatial resolution in order to obtain cortical maps of the directional selectivity of whisker deflection. For this task, a special multidirectional mechanical stimulator was developed in our laboratory. The vibrissae were covered with magnetic paint and deflection was performed using a custom-built deflecting device with four small crosswise electromagnets; the whisker was placed at the intersection of the magnet axes. The results show that differences between responses to directional deflection were indicated by a change in the intrinsic optical signal of incident light at 546 nm corresponding to an increase in blood volume. Our results provide a preliminary indication that the different regions of the barrel have different directional preference, supporting recent electrophysiological studies suggesting that the barrel might have a fine, directionally-sensitive anatomical structure.

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