Barrel cortex and whisker-mediated behaviors

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2007 Aug;17(4):408-16. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2007.07.008. Epub 2007 Aug 15.


Neural networks of the rodent barrel cortex are particularly tractable for developing a quantitative understanding of response transformations in a cortical column. A column in barrel cortex consists of approximately 10 compartments. Two thalamic input pathways, a sensory lemniscal one and sensorimotor paralemniscal one, are transformed to approximately 7 population outputs, each with distinct spatiotemporal response characteristics. Granular and supragranular layers are sites of segregated processing in lemniscal and paralemniscal pathways, whereas infragranular layers are sites of intracolumnar, lemniscal/paralemniscal integration. Individual thalamocortical connections are relatively weak, and a considerable fraction of thalamocortical afferents contributes to each sensory response. Intracortically, relatively few but strong synaptic connections contribute to sensory responses, and responses are rapidly terminated by inhibition. Overall cortical population activity is very low. Whiskers mediate a wide range of behaviors and many natural tactile behaviors occur very rapidly. Vibrissal object recognition can be size invariant and motion invariant and is based on the tactile 'Gestaltwahrnehmung' of shape.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Somatosensory Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Vibrissae / innervation*