Active cortical dendrites modulate perception

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Science  23 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6319, pp. 1587-1590
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6066

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Now you feel it, now you don't

What determines the detection of a sensory stimulus? To address this question, Takahashi et al. combined in vivo two-photon imaging, electrophysiology, optogenetics, and behavioral analysis in a study of mice. Calcium signals in apical dendrites of pyramidal neurons in the somatosensory cortex controlled the perceptual threshold of the mice's whiskers. Strong reduction of dendritic calcium signaling impaired the perceptual detection threshold so that an identical stimulus could no longer be noticed.

Science, this issue p. 1587


There is as yet no consensus concerning the neural basis of perception and how it operates at a mechanistic level. We found that Ca2+ activity in the apical dendrites of a subset of layer 5 (L5) pyramidal neurons in primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in mice is correlated with the threshold for perceptual detection of whisker deflections. Manipulating the activity of apical dendrites shifted the perceptual threshold, demonstrating that an active dendritic mechanism is causally linked to perceptual detection.

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