Bilateral Tactile Input Patterns Decoded at Comparable Levels But Different Time Scales in Neocortical Neurons
The presence of contralateral tactile input can profoundly affect ipsilateral tactile perception, and unilateral stroke in somatosensory areas can result in bilateral tactile deficits, suggesting that bilateral tactile integration is an important part of brain function. Although previous studies have shown that bilateral tactile inputs exist and that there are neural interactions between inputs from the two sides, no previous study explored to what extent the local neuronal circuitry processing contains detailed information about the nature of the tactile input from the two sides. To address this question, we used a recently introduced approach to deliver a set of electrical, reproducible, tactile afferent, spatiotemporal activation patterns, which permits a high-resolution analysis of the neuronal decoding capacity, to the skin of the second forepaw digits of the anesthetized male rat. Surprisingly, we found that individual neurons of the primary somatosensory can decode contralateral and ipsilateral input patterns to comparable extents. Although the contralateral input was stronger and more rapidly decoded, given sufficient poststimulus processing time, ipsilateral decoding levels essentially caught up to contralateral levels. Moreover, there was a weak but significant correlation for neurons with high decoding performance for contralateral tactile input to also perform well on decoding ipsilateral input. Our findings shed new light on the brain mechanisms underlying bimanual haptic integration.