Vibrissa Mechanical Properties

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The vibrissal (whisker) array of the rodent has been an important model for the study of active touch and tactile perception for over a century (Richardson, 1909; Vincent, 1912). During exploratory behaviors many rodents brush and tap their whiskers against surfaces to tactually extract object features, similar in some ways to how humans use their fingers for tactual exploration.

One of the largest advantages of studying vibrissae is that they are relatively mechanically simple. The whisker can be modeled as a tapered cantilever beam that transmits mechanical information to mechanoreceptors in the follicle at the whisker base.

The relative mechanical simplicity of the whiskers offers a long-term vision in which we can compute the complete set of tactile (mechanical) inputs transmitted by the vibrissae during active tactile exploration. To realize this vision requires careful quantification of whisker mechanics under the full range of behavioral conditions associated with active touch.

The present article reviews whisker mechanics in a manner intended to provide physical intuition for the types of mechanical signals that characterize natural vibrissotactile exploratory behavior.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationScholarpedia
StatePublished - 2015


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