The Matrix: a new tool for probing the whisker-to-barrel system with natural stimuli.

CNRS, Unité de Neurosciences, Information et Complexité (UNIC), 1 avenue de la Terrasse, 91190 Gif sur Yvette, France.
Journal of neuroscience methods (Impact Factor: 2.3). 03/2010; 189(1):65-74. DOI: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2010.03.020
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The whisker to barrel system in rodents has become one of the major models for the study of sensory processing. Several tens of whiskers (or vibrissae) are distributed in a regular manner on both sides of the snout. Many tactile discrimination tasks using this system need multiple contacts with more than one whisker to be solved. With the aim of mimicking those multi-whisker stimuli during electrophysiological recordings, we developed a novel mechanical stimulator composed of 24 independent multi-directional piezoelectric benders adapted to the five rows and the five caudal arcs of the rat whisker pad. The most widely used technology for producing mechanical deflections of the whiskers is based on piezoelectric benders that display a non-linear behavior when driven with high frequency input commands and, if not compensated, show high unwanted ringing at particular resonance frequencies. If not corrected, this non-linear behavior precludes the application of high frequency deflections and the study of cortical responses to behaviorally relevant stimuli. To cope with the ringing problem, a mechanical and a software based solutions have been developed. With these corrections, the upper bound of the linear range of the bender is increased to 1 kHz. This new device allows the controlled delivery of large scale natural patterns of whisker deflections characterized by rapid high frequency vibrations of multiple whiskers.

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