During tactile exploration, rats sweep their whiskers against objects in a motion called whisking. Here, we investigate how a whisker slips along an object's edge and how friction affects the resulting tactile signals. First, a frictionless model is developed to simulate whisker slip along a straight edge and compared with a previous model that incorporates friction but cannot simulate slip. Results of both models are compared to behavioral data obtained as a rat whisked against a smooth, stainless steel peg. As expected, the frictionless model predicts larger magnitudes of vertical slip than observed experimentally. The frictionless model also predicts forces and moments at the whisker base that are smaller and have a different direction than those predicted by the model with friction. Estimates for the friction coefficient yielded values near 0.48 (whisker/stainless steel). The present work provides the first assessments of the effects of friction on the mechanical signals received by the follicle during active whisking. It also demonstrates a proof-of-principle approach for reducing whisker tracking requirements during experiments and demonstrates the feasibility of simulating a full array of vibrissae whisking against a peg.
- trigeminal ganglion
- whisker mechanics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Computer Science Applications