Sensory integration across space and in time for decision making in the somatosensory system of rodents

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 23;104(4):1395-400. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0610267104. Epub 2007 Jan 16.


Environment is represented in the brain by a neural code that is a result of the spatiotemporal pattern of incoming sensory information. Sensory neurons encode inputs across space and in time such that activity of a given cell inhibits the ability of near-simultaneously arriving sensory stimuli to excite the cell. At the behavioral level, consequences of such suppression are unknown. We investigated the contribution of spatially distributed, near-simultaneous sensory inputs to decision making in a whisker-dependent learning task. Mice learned the task with a single whisker or multiple whiskers alike. Both groups of mice had similar learning curves and final success rates. However, multiple-whisker animals had faster response times than single-whisker mice, requiring only about half the time to perform the task successfully. The results show that spatially distributed sensory inputs in a highly redundant sensory environment improve speed but not accuracy of the decisions made during simple sensory detection. Suppression of the near-simultaneous sensory inputs could, therefore, act to reduce the sensory redundancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*