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Title: The neural representation of multisensory percepts : studying the integration of auditory and tactile stimuli in the somatosensory cortex
Author: Limal, Severin
ISNI:       0000 0005 0292 1468
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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Multisensory integration is the constant process through which we combine information across different sensory modalities in order to better interpret our environment. In early models of multisensory integration, primary sensory areas were thought to almost exclusively treat information from their preferred sensory modality and contribute little to the integration process. However, a growing literature now describes cross-modal responses in primary sensory cortices and direct cortico-cortical connections between primary sensory cortices. Therefore, cortical multisensory integration may begin as early as the primary sensory regions. I built on this literature by examining how training on a multisensory integration task may alter vibrissal primary somatosensory cortex (vS1) responses to vibrotactile whisker stimulation and amplitude modulated pure tones. Unlike most previous studies, ours required the animal to identify a unique combination of vibrotactile and auditory stimulation in order to perform the task correctly. I used chronic in vivo two-photon imaging of vS1 to measure neural responses to stimuli throughout training on the Go/No-Go task. Responses of the same neural populations were compared prior to, during, and following task acquisition. Mice learned to correctly identify specific combinations of audio-tactile stimulation. I observed vS1 responses to vibrotactile stimuli and found a subset of neurons that were responsive to sounds. I also found neurons that responded only to a single multisensory combination. Training led to an increase in the proportion of responsive neurons during acquisition on all tasks and a decrease in the proportion of responsive neurons after training on the multisensory task. Most tracked neurons became either responsive or unresponsive during or after training. In contrast, very few neurons maintained constant response properties. While it remains unclear whether or how training may remodel local circuits, my findings suggest that training and experience lead to the recruitment of different populations of neurons in vS1 in a modality-specific manner.
Supervisor: Walker, Kerry ; King, Andrew ; Kohl, Michael Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Neuroscience ; Multisensory integration