Temporal and spatial integration in the rat SI vibrissa cortex

J Neurophysiol. 1985 Sep;54(3):615-35. doi: 10.1152/jn.1985.54.3.615.


Glass micropipettes were used to record the activity of 124 single units in the somatosensory vibrissa cortex (SI) of 16 rats in response to combined deflections of contralateral vibrissae. Compact multiangular electromechanical stimulators were used to stimulate individual vibrissal hairs alone or in combinations of two or three adjacent whiskers. Each whisker was stimulated independently to produce controlled temporal and spatial patterns of mechanical stimuli. Following displacement of a vibrissa, unit discharges to subsequent deflections of adjacent whiskers are reduced in a time-dependent fashion. Response suppression is strongest at short interdeflection intervals, i.e., 10-20 ms and decreases progressively during the 50-100 ms following the first deflection. In many cases this period also corresponds with a reduction in ongoing unit discharges. Response suppression was not observed for first-order neurons recorded in the trigeminal ganglion of barbiturate-anesthetized rats. In the cortex, the presence and/or degree of response suppression depends on a number of spatial factors. These include 1) the angular direction(s) in which the individual hairs are moved, 2) the sequence in which two whiskers are deflected, that is, which one is deflected first, 3) the particular combination of whiskers stimulated, and 4) the number (2 or 3) of vibrissae comprising the multiwhisker stimulus. Within a vertical electrode penetration, one particular whisker typically elicits the strongest excitatory and inhibitory effects; other, nearby vibrissae elicit variable (or no) excitation or inhibition. Excitatory and inhibitory subregions of a receptive field could thus be distributed asymmetrically around the maximally effective whisker. In these cases, the receptive fields displayed spatial orientations. Quantitative criteria were used to classify 30 cortical units on the basis of the distribution of inhibitory subregions on either side of the maximally effective whisker. Twenty-one of these cells had receptive fields (RFs) with symmetrical inhibitory side regions. Responses of the other nine units were strongly suppressed by a preceding deflection of a vibrissa on one side but relatively unaffected, or even slightly facilitated, by preceding deflection of the whisker on the other side.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Microelectrodes
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Vibrissae / physiology*