Active Touch and Self-Motion Encoding by Merkel Cell-Associated Afferents

Kyle S. Severson, Duo Xu, Margaret Van de Loo, Ling Bai, David D. Ginty, Daniel H O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Touch perception depends on integrating signals from multiple types of peripheral mechanoreceptors. Merkel-cell associated afferents are thought to play a major role in form perception by encoding surface features of touched objects. However, activity of Merkel afferents during active touch has not been directly measured. Here, we show that Merkel and unidentified slowly adapting afferents in the whisker system of behaving mice respond to both self-motion and active touch. Touch responses were dominated by sensitivity to bending moment (torque) at the base of the whisker and its rate of change and largely explained by a simple mechanical model. Self-motion responses encoded whisker position within a whisk cycle (phase), not absolute whisker angle, and arose from stresses reflecting whisker inertia and activity of specific muscles. Thus, Merkel afferents send to the brain multiplexed information about whisker position and surface features, suggesting that proprioception and touch converge at the earliest neural level. Severson, Xu et al. recorded from identified Merkel cell-associated and other primary afferents in behaving mice. Surprisingly, these mechanoreceptor neurons encoded not only the properties of touched objects, but also whisker position, suggesting a dual role in touch and proprioception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNeuron
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Aug 24 2016

Fingerprint

Merkel Cells
Vibrissae
Touch
Proprioception
Mechanoreceptors
Touch Perception
Form Perception
Torque
Neurons
Muscles
Brain

Keywords

  • Active sensation
  • Barrel cortex
  • Neural coding
  • Perception
  • Primary afferents
  • Proprioception
  • Reafferent
  • Sensorimotor integration
  • Somatosensation
  • Whisker system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this

Active Touch and Self-Motion Encoding by Merkel Cell-Associated Afferents. / Severson, Kyle S.; Xu, Duo; Van de Loo, Margaret; Bai, Ling; Ginty, David D.; O'Connor, Daniel H.

In: Neuron, 24.08.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Severson, Kyle S. ; Xu, Duo ; Van de Loo, Margaret ; Bai, Ling ; Ginty, David D. ; O'Connor, Daniel H. / Active Touch and Self-Motion Encoding by Merkel Cell-Associated Afferents. In: Neuron. 2016.
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