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Perceptual context-dependent remodeling of the forepaw map in the SI cortex of rats trained on tactile discrimination.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Behavioural Brain Research
0166-4328
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
162
Issue
2
Pages
207–221
Identifiers
PMID: 15923046
Source
Medline

Abstract

We combined behavioral assessment of texture discrimination and electrophysiological mapping of concomitant reorganization in the forepaw representation within the SI cortex. Rats were housed in enriched (EE) or impoverished (IE) environments which have been shown to remodel the forepaw map and possibly alter discriminative abilities. In addition, animals were trained to discriminate homogeneous floorboards of invariant roughness from heterogeneous floorboards of gradually decreasing roughness contrasts during locomotion. As reported recently, differences in perceptual abilities were not related to housing conditions, but to a predilection for a floorboard type [Bourgeon S, Xerri C, Coq JO. Abilities in tactile discrimination of textures in adult rats exposed to enriched or impoverished environments. Behav Brain Res 2004;153:217-231]. Consistently, the present study shows that cortical map remodeling resulting from short-duration daily experience can prevail over changes induced by housing conditions. The relative area of glabrous skin representation was related to the discrimination performance and learning abilities in the rats (H) with a predilection for heterogeneous floorboards, i.e. in the animals performing discrimination in the most challenging perceptual context. By contrast, this cortical area was influenced by the duration of sensory experience in rats (h) with a predilection for homogeneous floorboards. Both EE condition and training to discrimination selectively decreased the sizes of the SI neurons' receptive fields (RFs) located on glabrous skin. Smaller RFs and larger cortical areas serving glabrous skin were correlated with better perceptual performances and learning abilities in the H rats only. The present study shows that representational reorganization related to tactile discrimination performances depends upon the perceptual context.

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