Eduard Maier: Structure-function analysis of somatosensory nose and whisker representations

BCCN Berlin / GRK 1589 / Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Topological mapping of body part representations in the brain have long been studied in neuroscience. In this thesis, three separate studies investigate such somatosensory representations by relating anatomy (structure) to physiology or behavior (function). In the first study we investigated whether and how the rat nervous system adapts to whiskers regrowth. We found that barrel cortex neurons displayed similar response properties to young and old whisker deflection and that both whiskers share their peripheral innervation in the same follicle. Our results further suggest that young and old whiskers do not form topologically distinct representations in the cortex. Such findings illuminate how perceptual stability is maintained despite the constant change of bodies and sensory structures. In the second study we identified the rodent nose somatosensory cortex and found that its tangential layer 4 organization is conserved across rodents. We also found significant respiration locked neural activity in the rat nose somatosensory cortex, suggesting coordinated processing of touch and respiration. In the third study we characterized the pig rostrum somatosensory cortex and found that its three-dimensional, gross organization matches the detailed structure of the actual rostrum appearance. We also found that layer 4 appears thinner in the putative nostril, similar to our results in the rodent nose somatosensory cortex. Collectively, our data i) reveal potential mechanisms for perceptual stability during bodily changes ii) identify the rodent nose somatosensory cortex and its relationship to respiration and iii) a striking isomorphism of the pig cortical rostrum representation with the pig snout.


Additional Information

PhD defense in the research training group GRK 1589, 'Sensory Computation in Neural Systems'.

Organized by

Prof. Dr. Michael Brecht & Prof. Dr. Marina Mikhaylova

Location: The talk will take place digitally via ZOOM - send an email to for access

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