Whisking mechanics and active sensing

Nicholas E. Bush, Sara A. Solla, Mitra JZ Hartmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We describe recent advances in quantifying the three-dimensional (3D) geometry and mechanics of whisking. Careful delineation of relevant 3D reference frames reveals important geometric and mechanical distinctions between the localization problem (‘where’ is an object) and the feature extraction problem (‘what’ is an object). Head-centered and resting-whisker reference frames lend themselves to quantifying temporal and kinematic cues used for object localization. The whisking-centered reference frame lends itself to quantifying the contact mechanics likely associated with feature extraction. We offer the ‘windowed sampling’ hypothesis for active sensing: that rats can estimate an object's spatial features by integrating mechanical information across whiskers during brief (25–60 ms) windows of ‘haptic enclosure’ with the whiskers, a motion that resembles a hand grasp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-188
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent opinion in neurobiology
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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