Embedding a panoramic representation of infrared light in the adult rat somatosensory cortex through a sensory neuroprosthesis

Konstantin Hartmann, Eric E. Thomson, Ivan Zea, Richy Yun, Peter Mullen, Jay Canarick, Albert Huh, Miguel A.L. Nicolelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Can the adult brain assimilate a novel, topographically organized, sensory modality into its perceptual repertoire? To test this, we implemented a microstimulation-based neuroprosthesis that rats used to discriminate among infrared (IR) light sources. This system continuously relayed information from four IR sensors that were distributed to provide a panoramic view of IR sources, into primary somatosensory cortex (S1). Rats learned to discriminate the location of IR sources in <4 d. Animals in which IR information was delivered in spatial register with whisker topography learned the task more quickly. Further, in animals that had learned to use the prosthesis, altering the topographic mapping from IR sensor to stimulating electrode had immediate deleterious effects on discrimination performance. Multielectrode recordings revealed that S1 neurons had multimodal (tactile/IR) receptive fields, with clear preferences for those stimuli most likely to be delivered during the task. Neuronal populations predicted, with high accuracy, which stimulation pattern was present in small (75 ms) time windows. Surprisingly, when identical microstimulation patterns were delivered during an unrelated task, cortical activity in S1 was strongly suppressed. Overall, these results show that the adult mammalian neocortex can readily absorb completely new information sources into its representational repertoire, and use this information in the production of adaptive behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2406-2424
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 24 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Barrel cortex
  • Rat
  • Sensory prosthetic
  • Whisker system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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