Whisking kinematics enables object localization in head-centered coordinates based on tactile information from a single vibrissa

Anne E T Yang, Mitra J Z Hartmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

During active tactile exploration with their whiskers (vibrissae), rodents can rapidly orient to an object even though there are very few proprioceptors in the whisker muscles. Thus a long-standing question in the study of the vibrissal system is how the rat can localize an object in head-centered coordinates without muscle-based proprioception. We used a three-dimensional model of whisker bending to simulate whisking motions against a peg to investigate the possibility that the 3D mechanics of contact from a single whisker are sufficient for localization in head-centered coordinates. Results show that for nearly all whiskers in the array, purely tactile signals at the whisker base – as would be measured by mechanoreceptors, in whisker-centered coordinates – could be used to determine the location of a vertical peg in head-centered coordinates. Both the “roll” and the “elevation” components of whisking kinematics contribute to the uniqueness and resolution of the localization. These results offer an explanation for a behavioral study showing that rats can more accurately determine the horizontal angle of an object if one column, rather than one row, of whiskers is spared.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number145
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Volume10
Issue numberJULY
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 19 2016

Keywords

  • Biomechanics
  • Orienting
  • Superior colliculus
  • Touch
  • Trigeminal
  • Whisker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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