Animals employ active touch to optimize the acuity of their tactile sensors. Prior experimental results and models lead to the hypothesis that sensory inputs are used in a recurrent manner to tune the position of the sensors. A combination of electrophysiology, intersectional genetic viral labeling and manipulation, and classical tracing allowed us to identify second-order sensorimotor loops that control vibrissa movements by rodents. Facial motoneurons that drive intrinsic muscles to protract the vibrissae receive a short latency inhibitory input, followed by synaptic excitation, from neurons located in the oralis division of the trigeminal sensory complex. In contrast, motoneurons that retract the mystacial pad and indirectly retract the vibrissae receive only excitatory input from interpolaris cells that further project to the thalamus. Silencing this feedback alters retraction. The observed pull-push circuit at the lowest-level sensorimotor loop provides a mechanism for the rapid modulation of vibrissa touch during exploration of peri-personal space.
Keywords: brainstem; facial nucleus; intersectional labeling; spinal trigeminal nuclei; touch; whisking.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.