Vibrissa-related behavior in mice: transient effect of ablation of the barrel cortex

Behav Brain Res. 1991 Jul 1;44(1):87-99. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(05)80242-6.


Knowing that the mystacial vibrissae are an important part of the tactile sensory apparatus of rodents, we investigated the role of the barrel cortex - the endstation of the pathway between whiskerpad and cerebral cortex - in mouse behavior. We tested 15 female adult mice 2 and 10 weeks after both unilateral ablation of the barrel cortex and removal of the vibrissae on the same side in order to assess acute as well as transient effects of the cortical lesion. Two kinds of behavioral tests were performed on animals permanently provided with opaque lenses: one involved a passive stimulation of the vibrissae; the other was the 'gap-crossing' test which required the animal's active use of the vibrissae. Lesioned subjects did not show a deficit during passive stimulation of the vibrissae. On the contrary, there was a deficit during the gap-crossing test 2 weeks after the ablation of the barrel cortex. The deficit partly disappeared when the subjects were tested 10 weeks later. The results show that in mice, the barrel cortex is involved in the performance of complex behavioral tasks. The recovery of function could be due to changes in strategies to solve the gap-crossing test and/or to physical changes in neuronal circuitry. In either case, the results are relevant for the interpretation of cortical transplantation models using the whisker-to-barrel pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Vibrissae / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology