Global Tactile Coding in Rat Barrel Cortex in the Absence of Local Cues
journal contributionposted on 05.06.2017, 12:16 by Todor V. Gerdjikov, Caroline G. Bergner, Cornelius Schwarz
Although whisker-related perception is based predominantly on local, near-instantaneous coding, global, intensive coding, which integrates the vibrotactile signal over time, has also been shown to play a role given appropriate behavioral conditions. Here, we study global coding in isolation by studying head-fixed rats that identified pulsatile stimuli differing in pulse frequency but not in pulse waveforms, thus abolishing perception based on local coding. We quantified time locking and spike counts as likely variables underpinning the 2 coding schemes. Both neurometric variables contained substantial stimulus information, carried even by spikes of single barrel cortex neurons. To elucidate which type of information is actually used by the rats, we systematically compared psychometric with neurometric sensitivity based on the 2 coding schemes. Neurometric performance was calculated by using a population-encoding model incorporating the properties of our recorded neuron sample. We found that sensitivity calculated from spike counts sampled over long periods (>1 s) matched the performance of rats better than the one carried by spikes time-locked to the stimulus. We conclude that spike counts are more relevant to tactile perception when instantaneous kinematic parameters are not available.