Neural Circuit Dynamics Underlying Touch Perception
Daniel O’Connor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
I will discuss recent work using the mouse to explore the neural basis of touch perception at levels ranging from mechanoreceptors to interactions among sensory-motor areas of the neocortex. Touch perception is constrained by the coding properties of neurons in the skin that transduce mechanical stimuli into action potentials. Using the whisker system of mice, we have begun to quantify how specific types of mechanoreceptive neurons encode mechanical stimuli during behavior. Once the mechanical features of the environment have been encoded into action potentials and sent to the central nervous system, multiple factors determine the fate of these action potentials and their impact on touch perception. By monitoring and manipulating neural activity at essentially all levels of the nervous system during behavior, we have gained insight into the mapping between action potentials arriving to the brain and sensory perception.