Journal article

Sparse, reliable, and long-term stable representation of periodic whisker deflections in the mouse barrel cortex

The rodent whisker system is a preferred model for studying plasticity in the somatosensory cortex (barrel cortex). Contrarily, only a small amount of research has been conducted to characterize the stability of neuronal population activity in the barrel cortex. We used the mouse whisker system to address the neuronal basis of stable perception in the somatosensory cortex. Cortical representation of periodic whisker deflections was studied in populations of neurons in supragranular layers over extended time periods (up to 3 months) with long-term two-photon Ca2+ imaging in anesthetized mice. We found that inmost of the neurons (87%), Ca2+ responses increased sublinearly with increasing number of contralateral whisker deflections. The imaged population of neurons was activated in a stereotypic way over days and for different deflection rates (pulse frequencies). Thus, pulse frequencies are coded by response strength rather than by distinct neuronal sub-populations. A small population of highly responsive neurons (similar to 3%) was sufficient to decode the whisker stimulus. This conserved functional map, led by a small set of highly responsive neurons, might form the foundation of stable sensory percepts. (C) 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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