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Parallel Thalamic Pathways for Whisking and Touch Signals in the Rat

Summary: Parallel Thalamic Pathways for Whisking
and Touch Signals in the Rat
Chunxiu Yu, Dori Derdikman, Sebastian Haidarliu, Ehud Ahissar*
Department of Neurobiology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
In active sensation, sensory information is acquired via movements of sensory organs; rats move their whiskers
repetitively to scan the environment, thus detecting, localizing, and identifying objects. Sensory information, in turn,
affects future motor movements. How this motor-sensory-motor functional loop is implemented across anatomical
loops of the whisker system is not yet known. While inducing artificial whisking in anesthetized rats, we recorded the
activity of individual neurons from three thalamic nuclei of the whisker system, each belonging to a different major
afferent pathway: paralemniscal, extralemniscal (a recently discovered pathway), or lemniscal. We found that different
sensory signals related to active touch are conveyed separately via the thalamus by these three parallel afferent
pathways. The paralemniscal pathway conveys sensor motion (whisking) signals, the extralemniscal conveys contact
(touch) signals, and the lemniscal pathway conveys combined whisking­touch signals. This functional segregation of
anatomical pathways raises the possibility that different sensory-motor processes, such as those related to motion
control, object localization, and object identification, are implemented along different motor-sensory-motor loops.
Citation: Yu C, Derdikman D, Haidarliu S, Ahissar E (2006) Parallel thalamic pathways for whisking and touch signals in the rat. PLoS Biol 4(5): e124. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.
Active touch is a closed-loop process in which sensor
motion determines the sensory input and the sensory input


Source: Ahissar, Ehud - Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science


Collections: Biology and Medicine