Multisensory and motor representations in rat oral somatosensory cortex

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Clemens, Ann M.
Fernandez Delgado, Yohami
Mehlman, Max L.
Mishra, Poonam
Brecht, Michael
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In mammals, a complex array of oral sensors assess the taste, temperature and haptic properties of food. Although the representation of taste has been extensively studied in the gustatory cortex, it is unclear how the somatosensory cortex encodes information about the properties of oral stimuli. Moreover, it is poorly understood how different oral sensory modalities are integrated and how sensory responses are translated into oral motor actions. To investigate whether oral somatosensory cortex processes food-related sensations and movements, we performed in vivo whole-cell recordings and motor mapping experiments in rats. Neurons in oral somatosensory cortex showed robust post-synaptic and sparse action potential responses to air puffs. Membrane potential showed that cold water evoked larger responses than room temperature or hot water. Most neurons showed no clear tuning of responses to bitter, sweet and neutral gustatory stimuli. Finally, motor mapping experiments with histological verification revealed an initiation of movements related to food consumption behavior, such as jaw opening and tongue protrusions. We conclude that somatosensory cortex: (i) provides a representation of the temperature of oral stimuli, (ii) does not systematically encode taste information and (iii) influences orofacial movements related to food consummatory behavior.
© The Author(s), 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Scientific Reports 8 (2018): 13556, doi:10.1038/s41598-018-31710-0.
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Scientific Reports 8 (2018): 13556
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