Sensorimotor integration in the whisker somatosensory brain stem trigeminal loop

Omer Tsur, Yana Khrapunsky, Rony Azouz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The rodent's vibrissal system is a useful model system for studying sensorimotor integration in perception. This integration determines the way in which sensory information is acquired by sensory organs and the motor commands that control them. The initial instance of sensorimotor integration in the whisker somatosensory system is implemented in the brain stem loop and may be essential to the way rodents explore and sense their environment. To examine the nature of these sensorimotor interactions, we recorded from lightly anesthetized rats in vivo and brain stem slices in vitro and isolated specific parts of this loop. We found that motor feedback to the vibrissal pad serves as a dynamic gain controller that controls the response of first-order sensory neurons by increasing and decreasing sensitivity to lower and higher tactile stimulus magnitudes, respectively. This delicate mechanism is mediated through tactile stimulus magnitude-dependent motor feedback. Conversely, tactile inputs affect the motor whisking output through influences on the rhythmic whisking circuitry, thus changing whisking kinetics. Similarly, tactile influences also modify the whisking amplitude through synaptic and intrinsic neuronal interaction in the facial nucleus, resulting in facilitation or suppression of whisking amplitude. These results point to the vast range of mechanisms underlying sensorimotor integration in the brain stem loop.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Sensorimotor integration is a process in which sensory and motor information is combined to control the flow of sensory information, as well as to adjust the motor system output. We found in the rodent's whisker somatosensory system mutual influences between tactile inputs and motor output, in which motor neurons control the flow of sensory information depending on their magnitude. Conversely, sensory information can control the magnitude and kinetics of whisker movement.

Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)2061-2075
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Animals
  • Brain Stem/physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena/physiology
  • Feedback, Sensory/physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Activity/physiology
  • Motor Neurons/physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Touch/physiology
  • Touch Perception/physiology
  • Trigeminal Nerve/physiology
  • Vibrissae/physiology


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