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Elife. 2016 Jun 27;5. pii: e13969. doi: 10.7554/eLife.13969.

Decoupling kinematics and mechanics reveals coding properties of trigeminal ganglion neurons in the rat vibrissal system.

Author information

1
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Northwestern University, Evanston, United States.
2
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, United States.
3
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northwestern University, Evanston, United States.
4
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, United States.
5
Department of Physiology, Northwestern University, Chicago, United States.

Abstract

Tactile information available to the rat vibrissal system begins as external forces that cause whisker deformations, which in turn excite mechanoreceptors in the follicle. Despite the fundamental mechanical origin of tactile information, primary sensory neurons in the trigeminal ganglion (Vg) have often been described as encoding the kinematics (geometry) of object contact. Here we aimed to determine the extent to which Vg neurons encode the kinematics vs. mechanics of contact. We used models of whisker bending to quantify mechanical signals (forces and moments) at the whisker base while simultaneously monitoring whisker kinematics and recording single Vg units in both anesthetized rats and awake, body restrained rats. We employed a novel manual stimulation technique to deflect whiskers in a way that decouples kinematics from mechanics, and used Generalized Linear Models (GLMs) to show that Vg neurons more directly encode mechanical signals when the whisker is deflected in this decoupled stimulus space.

KEYWORDS:

active touch; computational biology; mechanics; natural behavior; neural coding; neuroscience; rat; somatosensation; systems biology; whisker

PMID:
27348221
PMCID:
PMC4999311
DOI:
10.7554/eLife.13969
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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