Integration of bilateral whisker stimuli in rats: Role of the whisker barrel cortices

Marshall G. Shuler, David J. Krupa, Miguel A.L. Nicoleis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Recently, we demonstrated that neural responses within the whisker region of the primary somatosensory cortex (Slw) of rats are profoundly influenced by the spatiotemporal attributes of ipsilateral, as well as contralateral, whisker stimuli. As inactivation of one Slw eliminates in the intact Slw both ipsilaterally evoked responses and the influence of ipsilateral stimulation on contralaterally evoked activity, we proposed that interhemispheric interactions between the Slws may be important for integrating bilateral whisker information. To test whether rats can recognize the bilateral nature of a whisker stimulus, we developed a tactile discrimination task that required rats to conjointly determine distances to a left and a right discriminandum as equidistant or non-equidistant using only their facial whiskers. All rats trained in this task achieved performance levels indicative of an ability to integrate bilateral whisker information. Testing during unilateral, as well as bilateral, inactivation of the Slws indicated that rats rely on both Slws for detecting the bilateral nature of a whisker stimulus. Rats were unable to perform the task without both sets of whiskers, a fact that indicates that the whiskers (and not other modalities) were used to perform this task. The findings presented here indicate that rats can solve a task that requires the conjoint detection of left and right whisker-mediated distance information and implicate the Slws as central to this ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-97
Number of pages12
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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