Dual, multilayered somatosensory maps formed by antennal tactile and contact chemosensory afferents in an insect brain



The antennae of most insects move actively and detect the physical and chemical composition of objects encountered by using their associated tactile sensors. Positional information is required for these sensory modalities to interpret the physical environment. Although we have a good understanding of antennal olfactory pathways, little is known about the destinations of antennal mechanosensory and contact chemosensory (gustatory) receptor neurons in the central nervous system. The cockroach Periplaneta is equipped with a pair of long, thin antennae, which are covered in bristles. The distal portions of each antenna possess about 6,500 bimodal bristles that house one tactile sensory and one to four contact chemosensory neurons. In this study, we investigated the morphologies of bimodal bristle receptor afferents by staining individual or populations of bristles. Unlike olfactory afferents, which project exclusively into the glomeruli in the ventral region of the deutocerebrum, both the presumptive mechanosensory and the contact chemosensory afferents projected into the posterior dorsal region of the deutocerebrum and the anterior region of the subesophageal ganglion. Each afferent showed multilayered segmentation and spatial occupation reflecting its three-dimensional position in the periphery. Presumptive contact chemosensory afferents, characterized by their thin axons and unique branching pattern, occupied more medioventral positions compared with the presumptive tactile afferents. Furthermore, projection fields of presumptive contact chemosensory afferents from single sensilla tended to be segregated from each other. These observations suggest that touch and taste positional information from the antenna is precisely represented in primary centers in a modality-specific manner. J. Comp. Neurol. 493:291–308, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.