Perception is a reconstruction process guided by rules based on knowledge about the world. Little is known about the neural implementation of the rules of object formation in the tactile sensory system. When two close tactile stimuli are delivered simultaneously on the skin, subjects feel a unique sensation, spatially centered between the two stimuli. Voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDi) and electrophysiological recordings [local field potentials (LFPs) and single units] were used to extract the cortical representation of two-point tactile stimuli in the primary somatosensory cortex of anesthetized Long-Evans rats. Although layer 4 LFP responses to brief costimulation of the distal region of two digits resembled the sum of individual responses, approximately one-third of single units demonstrated merging-compatible changes. In contrast to previous intrinsic optical imaging studies, VSD activations reflecting layer 2/3 activity were centered between the representations of the digits stimulated alone. This merging was found for every tested distance between the stimulated digits. We discuss this laminar difference as evidence that merging occurs through a buildup stream and depends on the superposition of inputs, which increases with successive stages of sensory processing. These findings show that layers 2/3 are involved in the grouping of sensory inputs. This process that could be inscribed in the cortical computing routine and network organization is likely to promote object formation and implement perception rules.
Corbo, J., Zennou-Azogui, Y., Xerri, C., & Catz, N. (2018). Cortical Merging in S1 as a Substrate for Tactile Input Grouping. Eneuro, 5(1), ENEURO.0342-17.2017. https://doi.org/10.1523/eneuro.0342-17.2017