Neuronal Encoding of Natural Stimuli: The Rat Tactile System

  1. Derek J. Chadwick,
  2. Mathew Diamond Organizer and
  3. Jamie Goode
  1. Mathew E. Diamond,
  2. Erik Zorzin and
  3. Ehsan Arabzadeh

Published Online: 7 OCT 2008

DOI: 10.1002/9780470034989.ch3

Percept, Decision, Action: Bridging the Gaps: Novartis Foundation Symposium 270

Percept, Decision, Action: Bridging the Gaps: Novartis Foundation Symposium 270

How to Cite

Diamond, M. E., Zorzin, E. and Arabzadeh, E. (2006) Neuronal Encoding of Natural Stimuli: The Rat Tactile System, in Percept, Decision, Action: Bridging the Gaps: Novartis Foundation Symposium 270 (eds D. J. Chadwick, M. Diamond and J. Goode), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470034989.ch3

Author Information

  1. Cognitive Neuroscience Sector, International School for Advanced Studies, SISSA, Via Beirut 2–4, 34014 Trieste, Italy

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 7 OCT 2008
  2. Published Print: 13 JAN 2006

Book Series:

  1. Novartis Foundation Symposia

Book Series Editors:

  1. Novartis Foundation

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470012338

Online ISBN: 9780470034989

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Keywords:

  • natural tactile stimuli encoding;
  • texture constancy and active whisking frequency;
  • stimulus-evoked neuronal activity pattern;
  • top-down neuronal manifestation process;
  • neuronal encoding of kinetic signatures

Summary

A major challenge of sensory systems neuroscience is to quantify the brain activity underlying perceptual experiences and to explain this activity as the outcome of elemental neuronal response properties. One strategy is to measure variations in neuronal response in relation to controlled variations in an artificial stimulus. The limitation is that the stimuli scarcely resemble those which the sensory system has evolved to process—natural, behaviourally relevant stimuli. A more recent strategy is to measure neuronal responses during presentation of natural stimuli, but such experiments have failed to predict the observed responses according to the fundamental properties of neurons. In the work described here, we focus on tactile sensation in rats, and try to bridge the gap between neurons' responses to natural stimuli and their responses to controlled, artificial stimuli. We focus on texture, a submodality in which the rat whisker sensory system excels. Because the physical characteristics of texture stimuli have not yet been studied, the first set of experiments measures textures from the whiskers' point of view. The second set of experiments describes neurons' responses to textures. The third set of experiments computes kernels (estimates of the extracted stimulus features) of sensory neurons using white noise and then tries to account for natural texture responses according to these kernels. These investigations suggest ways of using natural stimuli to assemble a more complete picture of the neuronal basis of tactile sensation.