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Cereb Cortex. 2019 Jan 21. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhy337. [Epub ahead of print]

Neural Coding of Contact Events in Somatosensory Cortex.

Author information

1
Committee on Computational Neuroscience, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
2
Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.

Abstract

Manual interactions with objects require precise and rapid feedback about contact events. These tactile signals are integrated with motor plans throughout the neuraxis to achieve dexterous object manipulation. To better understand the role of somatosensory cortex in interactions with objects, we measured, using chronically implanted arrays of electrodes, the responses of populations of somatosensory neurons to skin indentations designed to simulate the initiation, maintenance, and termination of contact with an object. First, we find that the responses of somatosensory neurons to contact onset and offset dwarf their responses to maintenance of contact. Second, we show that these responses rapidly and reliably encode features of the simulated contact events-their timing, location, and strength-and can account for the animals' performance in an amplitude discrimination task. Third, we demonstrate that the spatiotemporal dynamics of the population response in cortex mirror those of the population response in the nerves. We conclude that the responses of populations of somatosensory neurons are well suited to encode contact transients and are consistent with a role of somatosensory cortex in signaling transitions between task subgoals.

PMID:
30668644
DOI:
10.1093/cercor/bhy337

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