Global and local neuronal coding of tactile information in the barrel cortex

Hariom Sharma, Rony Azouz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During tactile sensation in rodents, the whisker movements across surfaces give rise to intricate whisker motions that encompass discrete and transient stick–slip events, effectively conveying valuable information regarding surface properties. These surface characteristics are transformed into cortical neuronal responses. This study examined the coding strategies underlying these transformations in rat whiskers. We found that changes in surface coarseness modified the number and magnitude of stick–slip events, which in turn both modulated properties of neuronal responses. Global changes in the number of stick–slip events primarily affected neuronal discharge rates and the degree of neuronal synchronization. In contrast, local changes in the magnitude of stick–slip events affected the transformation of these kinematic and kinetic characteristics into neuronal discharges. Most cortical neurons exhibited surface coarseness selectivity through global and local stick–slip event properties. However, this selectivity varied across coding strategies in the same neurons, given that each coding strategy reflected different aspects of changes in whisker-surface interactions. The degree of spatial similarity in surface coarseness preference in adjacently recorded neurons differed among these coding strategies. Adjacently recorded neurons exhibited the same surface coarseness preference in their firing rates but not through other coding strategies. Through these results, we were able to show that local stick–slip event properties contribute to texture discrimination, complementing and surpassing global coding in this context. These findings suggest that the representation of surface coarseness in the cortex may rely on concurrent coding strategies that integrate tactile information across different spatiotemporal scales.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1291864
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - 5 Jan 2024


  • cortex
  • neuronal synchronization
  • sensory processing
  • somatosensory system
  • textures
  • whiskers

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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