Rodent somatosensory cortex contains an isomorphic map of the mystacial whiskers in which each whisker is represented by neuronal populations, or barrels, that are separated from each other by intervening septa. Separate afferent pathways convey somatosensory information to the barrels and septa that represent the input stages for 2 partially segregated circuits that extend throughout the other layers of barrel cortex. Whereas the barrel-related circuits process spatiotemporal information generated by whisker contact with external objects, the septa-related circuits encode the frequency and other kinetic features of active whisker movements. The projection patterns from barrel cortex indicate that information processed by the septa-related circuits is used both separately and in combination with information from the barrel-related circuits to mediate specific functions. According to this theory, outputs from the septal processing stream modulate the brain regions that regulate whisking behavior, whereas both processing streams cooperate with each other to identify external stimuli encountered by passive or active whisker movements. This theoretical view prompts several testable hypotheses about the coordination of neuronal activity during whisking behavior. Foremost among these, motor brain regions that control whisker movements are more strongly coordinated with the septa-related circuits than with the barrel-related circuits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience