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Open Access Research article

Electrophysiological characterization of texture information slip-resistance dependent in the rat vibrissal nerve

Fernando D Farfán1*, Ana L Albarracín2 and Carmelo J Felice1

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratorio de Medios e Interfases, Departamento de Bioingeniería, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán & Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Tucumán, Argentina

2 Laboratorio de Neurociencia, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Tucumán, Argentina

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BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-32

Published: 16 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Studies in tactile discrimination agree that rats are able to learn a rough-smooth discrimination task by actively touching (whisking) objects with their vibrissae. In particular, we focus on recent evidence of how neurons at different levels of the sensory pathway carry information about tactile stimuli. Here, we analyzed the multifiber afferent discharge of one vibrissal nerve during active whisking. Vibrissae movements were induced by electrical stimulation of motor branches of the facial nerve. We used sandpapers of different grain size as roughness discrimination surfaces and we also consider the change of vibrissal slip-resistance as a way to improve tactile information acquisition. The amplitude of afferent activity was analyzed according to its Root Mean Square value (RMS). The comparisons among experimental situation were quantified by using the information theory.

Results

We found that the change of the vibrissal slip-resistance is a way to improve the roughness discrimination of surfaces. As roughness increased, the RMS values also increased in almost all cases. In addition, we observed a better discrimination performance in the retraction phase (maximum amount of information).

Conclusions

The evidence of amplitude changes due to roughness surfaces and slip-resistance levels allows to speculate that texture information is slip-resistance dependent at peripheral level.