Tactile sensory information from facial whiskers provides nocturnal tunnel-dwelling rodents, including mice and rats, with important spatial and textural information about their immediate surroundings. Whiskers are moved back and forth to scan the environment (whisking), and touch signals from each whisker evoke sparse patterns of neuronal activity in whisker-related primary somatosensory cortex (wS1; barrel cortex). Whisking is accompanied by desynchronized brain states and cell-type-specific changes in spontaneous and evoked neuronal activity. Tactile information, including object texture and location, appears to be computed in wS1 through integration of motor and sensory signals. wS1 also directly controls whisker movements and contributes to learned, whisker-dependent, goal-directed behaviours. The cell-type-specific neuronal circuitry in wS1 that contributes to whisker sensory perception is beginning to be defined.