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Slip-Based Coding of Local Shape and Texture in Mouse S1.

Neuron. 2017 Dec 28;:

Authors: Isett BR, Feasel SH, Lane MA, Feldman DE

Tactile objects have both local geometry (shape) and broader macroscopic texture, but how these different spatial scales are simultaneously encoded during active touch is unknown. In the whisker system, we tested for a shared code based on localized whisker micromotions (stick-slips) and slip-evoked spikes. We trained mice to discriminate smooth from rough surfaces, including ridged gratings and sandpaper. Whisker slips locked to ridges and evoked temporally precise spikes (<10 ms jitter) in somatosensory cortex (S1) that could resolve ridges with ∼1 mm accuracy. Slip-sensitive neurons also encoded touch and texture. On rough surfaces, both slip-evoked spikes and an additional non-slip signal elevated mean firing rate, allowing accurate rough-smooth texture decoding from population firing rate. Eighteen percent of neurons were selective among rough surfaces. Thus, slips elicit spatially and temporally precise spiking in S1 that simultaneously encodes local shape (ridges) and is integrated into a macroscopic firing rate code for roughness.

PMID: 29307709 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]