Beyond Touch: Exploring Audible Aspects of Rodent Whisking

Tuesday, April 9, 2024
Hour: 14:00 - 15:00
Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Building for Biomedical Research
Ben Efron PhD Thesis Defense
Advisor: Prof. Ilan Lampl

Sensory processing is fundamental for animal adaptation and survival, linking them to their environments. Understanding the nervous system's integration of sensory information is crucial for comprehending behavior and cognition. This process involves integrating external cues across modalities, along with internal states, cognitive processes, and motor control, leading to complex behaviors and a nuanced understanding of the world. To facilitate research on these processes, we aimed to identify natural behaviors that produce both auditory and somatosensory stimuli, steering clear of artificial stimulus sources. We discovered that whisking, previously considered a unimodal behavior associated solely with tactile sensations, also produces sounds with distinctive acoustic features within the auditory frequency range of mice. We explored the auditory neuronal representation of sounds generated by whisking and their implications for behavioral performance.  We demonstrate that sounds produced by whisking elicit diverse neuronal responses in the auditory cortex, encoding the object's identity and the mouse's whisking state, even in the absence of tactile sensations. Furthermore, we show that mice are capable of completing behavioral tasks relying solely on auditory cues generated by whisking against objects.