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Whisker Contact Detection of Rodents Based on Slow and Fast Mechanical Inputs

Abstract : Rodents use their whiskers to locate nearby objects with an extreme precision. To perform such tasks, they need to detect whisker/object contacts with a high temporal accuracy. This contact detection is conveyed by classes of mechanoreceptors whose neural activity is sensitive to either slow or fast time varying mechanical stresses acting at the base of the whiskers. We developed a biomimetic approach to separate and characterize slow quasi-static and fast vibrational stress signals acting on a whisker base in realistic exploratory phases, using experiments on both real and artificial whiskers. Both slow and fast mechanical inputs are successfully captured using a mechanical model of the whisker. We present and discuss consequences of the whisking process in purely mechanical terms and hypothesize that free whisking in air sets a mechanical threshold for contact detection. The time resolution and robustness of the contact detection strategies based on either slow or fast stress signals are determined. Contact detection based on the vibrational signal is faster and more robust to exploratory conditions than the slow quasi-static component, although both slow/fast components allow localizing the object.
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Submitted on : Friday, February 10, 2017 - 10:46:14 AM
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Laure N. Claverie, Yves Boubenec, Georges Debrégeas, Alexis M. Prevost, Elie Wandersman. Whisker Contact Detection of Rodents Based on Slow and Fast Mechanical Inputs. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Frontiers, 2017, 10, pp.251. ⟨10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00251⟩. ⟨hal-01464292⟩

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