Haptic perception synthesizes touch with proprioception, the sense of body position. Humans and mice alike experience rich active touch of the face. Because most facial muscles lack proprioceptor endings, the sensory basis of facial proprioception remains unsolved. Facial proprioception may instead rely on mechanoreceptors that encode both touch and self-motion. In rodents, whisker mechanoreceptors provide a signal that informs the brain about whisker position. Whisking involves coordinated orofacial movements, so mechanoreceptors innervating facial regions other than whiskers could also provide information about whisking. To define all sources of sensory information about whisking available to the brain, we recorded spikes from mechanoreceptors innervating diverse parts of the face. Whisker motion was encoded best by whisker mechanoreceptors, but also by those innervating whisker pad hairy skin and supraorbital vibrissae. Redundant self-motion responses may provide the brain with a stable proprioceptive signal despite mechanical perturbations during active touch.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)