Rats generate sweeping whisker movements in order to explore their environments and identify objects. In somatosensory pathways, neuronal activity is modulated by the frequency of whisker vibration. However, the potential role of rhythmic neuronal activity in the cerebral processing of sensory signals and its mechanism remain unclear. Here, we showed that rhythmic vibrissal stimulation with short duration in anesthetized rats resulted in an increase or decrease in the amplitude of somatosensory-evoked potentials (SEPs) in the contralateral barrel cortex. The plastic change of the SEPs was frequency dependent and long lasting. The long-lasting enhancement of the vibrissa-to-cortex evoked response was side- but not barrel-specific. Local application of dl-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid into the barrel cortex revealed that this vibrissa-to-cortex long-term plasticity in adult rats was N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor-dependent. Most interestingly, whisker trimming through postnatal day (P)1-7 but not P29-35 impaired the long-term plasticity induced by 100 Hz vibrissal stimulation. The short period of rhythmic vibrissal stimulation did not induce long-lasting plasticity of field potentials in the thalamus. In conclusion, our results suggest that natural rhythmic whisker activity modifies sensory information processing in cerebral cortex, providing further insight into sensory perception.
Keywords: barrel cortex; field potential; rats; synaptic plasticity; vibrissal stimulation.
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