The rodent whisker system is widely used as a model system for investigating sensorimotor integration, neural mechanisms of complex cognitive tasks, neural development, and robotics. The whisker pathways to the barrel cortex have received considerable attention. However, many subcortical structures are paramount to the whisker system. They contribute to important processes, like filtering out salient features, integration with other senses, and adaptation of the whisker system to the general behavioral state of the animal. We present here an overview of the brain regions and their connections involved in the whisker system. We do not only describe the anatomy and functional roles of the cerebral cortex, but also those of subcortical structures like the striatum, superior colliculus, cerebellum, pontomedullary reticular formation, zona incerta, and anterior pretectal nucleus as well as those of level setting systems like the cholinergic, histaminergic, serotonergic, and noradrenergic pathways. We conclude by discussing how these brain regions may affect each other and how they together may control the precise timing of whisker movements and coordinate whisker perception.
Keywords: vibrissa, follicle–sinus complex, barrel cortex, basal ganglia, cerebellum, sensorimotor integration, rhythmic movements, anatomy
Citation: Bosman LWJ, Houweling AR, Owens CB, Tanke N, Shevchouk OT, Rahmati N, Teunissen WH, Ju C, Gong W, Koekkoek SK and De Zeeuw CI (2011) Anatomical pathways involved in generating and sensing rhythmic whisker movements. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 5:53. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2011.00053
Received: 08 July 2011;
Accepted: 26 August 2011;
Published online: 03 October 2011.
Edited by:Agnes Gruart, University Pablo de Olavide Seville, Spain
Reviewed by:Michael Brecht, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany
Copyright: © 2011 Bosman, Houweling, Owens, Tanke, Shevchouk, Rahmati, Teunissen, Ju, Gong, Koekkoek and De Zeeuw. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.
*Correspondence: Chris I. De Zeeuw, Department of Neuroscience, Erasmus MC, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, Netherlands. e-mail: email@example.com