Primary sensory cortices display functional topography, suggesting that even small cortical volumes may underpin perception of specific stimuli. Traditional loss-of-function approaches have a relatively large radius of effect (>1 mm), and few studies track recovery following loss-of-function perturbations. Consequently, the behavioral necessity of smaller cortical volumes remains unclear. In the mouse primary vibrissal somatosensory cortex (vS1), "barrels" with a radius of ∼150 μm receive input predominantly from a single whisker, partitioning vS1 into a topographic map of well defined columns. Here, we train animals implanted with a cranial window over vS1 to perform single-whisker perceptual tasks. We then use high-power laser exposure centered on the barrel representing the spared whisker to produce lesions with a typical volume of one to two barrels. These columnar-scale lesions impair performance in an object location discrimination task for multiple days without disrupting vibrissal kinematics. Animals with degraded location discrimination performance can immediately perform a whisker touch detection task with high accuracy. Animals trained de novo on both simple and complex whisker touch detection tasks showed no permanent behavioral deficits following columnar-scale lesions. Thus, columnar-scale lesions permanently degrade performance in object location discrimination tasks.
Keywords: barrel cortex; lesion; perception.
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