Cortical modulation of sensory flow during active touch in the rat whisker system

Nat Commun. 2018 Sep 25;9(1):3907. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06200-6.


Sensory gating, where responses to stimuli during sensor motion are reduced in amplitude, is a hallmark of active sensing systems. In the rodent whisker system, sensory gating has been described only at the thalamic and cortical stages of sensory processing. However, does sensory gating originate at an even earlier synaptic level? Most importantly, is sensory gating under top-down or bottom-up control? To address these questions, we used an active touch task in behaving rodents while recording from the trigeminal sensory nuclei. First, we show that sensory gating occurs in the brainstem at the first synaptic level. Second, we demonstrate that sensory gating is pathway-specific, present in the lemniscal but not in the extralemniscal stream. Third, using cortical lesions resulting in the complete abolition of sensory gating, we demonstrate its cortical dependence. Fourth, we show accompanying decreases in whisking-related activity, which could be the putative gating signal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Vibrissae / physiology*