Whisker stiffness determines its bending properties and information transfer during object localization tasks

D Golomb, A Hires, K Svoboda

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstract


Rodents can estimate object radial distance using a single
whisker. The forces, moments and deflection at the whisker base, where mechanoreceptors of trigeminal ganglion
neurons are located, are determined by the modifications
of whisker profile in response to bending. We compute
whisker profiles during contact using the two-dimensional
quasi-static approximation, and compare them with video
recordings of whiskers rotated by a galvo against a cylindrical pole. A stable contacting state exists when the
whisker push angle towards the pole is not too large. It
disappears beyond a critical angle and the whisker slips
off. Slip-off occurs when for conical, but not for cylindrical, whisker. Comparison between modeling results with
homogeneous Young's Modulus and experiments shows
that the bending of the theoretical whisker is smaller than
that of the experimental whisker for proximal object locations, and is larger for distal locations. This discrepancy is
resolved assuming a non-monotonous dependence of effective Young's modulus on the whisker arc length. The
quasi-static approximation fits experimental data even if
the whisker plane is not perpendicular to the pole. Whisker profiles during contact for High (19 Hz) and low
S54 J Mol Neurosci (2014) 53 (Suppl 1):S1–S137
rotation frequency are similar, and inertial effects are not
observed experimentally. Vibrations occur after the whisker
detaches from the object. This work shows how whisker
stiffness controls its bending properties: the conical structure is necessary for encoding object distance by slip-off
events, the quasi-static description describes bending properties during whisking well if non-homogeneities in the
effective Young's modulus are considered. Radial distance
is encoded by quasi-static forces, slip-offs and vibrations
after detach.
Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)S54-S55
JournalJournal of Molecular Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2014


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