The neural coding of stimulus intensity: Linking the population response of mechanoreceptive afferents with psychophysical behavior

Michael A. Muniak, Supratim Ray, Steven S. Hsiao, J. Frank Dammann, Sliman J. Bensmaia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

114 Scopus citations

Abstract

How specific aspects of a stimulus are encoded at different stages of neural processing is a critical question in sensory neuroscience. In the present study, we investigated the neural code underlying the perception of stimulus intensity in the somatosensory system. We first characterized the responses of SA1 (slowly adapting type 1), RA (rapidly adapting), and PC (Pacinian) afferents of macaque monkeys to sinusoidal, diharmonic, and bandpass noise stimuli. We then had human subjects rate the perceived intensity of a subset of these stimuli. On the basis of these neurophysiological and psychophysical measurements, we evaluated a series of hypotheses about which aspect(s) of the neural activity evoked at the somatosensory periphery account for perception. We evaluated three types of neural codes. The first consisted of population codes based on the firing rate of neurons located directly under the probe. The second included population codes based on the firing rate of the entire population of active neurons. The third included codes based on the number of active afferents. We found that the response evoked in the localized population is logarithmic with stimulus amplitude (given a constant frequency composition), whereas the population response across all neurons is linear with stimulus amplitude. We conclude that stimulus intensity is best accounted for by the firing rate evoked in afferents located under or near the locus of stimulation, weighted by afferent type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11687-11699
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume27
Issue number43
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 24 2007

Keywords

  • Afferent
  • Neural coding
  • Neurophysiology
  • Population coding
  • Psychophysics
  • Somatosensory
  • Touch
  • Vibration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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