The functional organization of the barrel cortex

The tactile somatosensory pathway from whisker to cortex in rodents provides a well-defined system for exploring the link between molecular mechanisms, synaptic circuits, and behavior. The primary somatosensory cortex has an exquisite somatotopic map where each individual whisker is represented in a discrete anatomical unit, the "barrel," allowing precise delineation of functional organization, development, and plasticity. Sensory information is actively acquired in awake behaving rodents and processed differently within the barrel map depending upon whisker-related behavior. The prominence of state-dependent cortical sensory processing is likely to be crucial in our understanding of active sensory perception, experience-dependent plasticity and learning.


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