Rats can be trained to associate relative spatial locations of objects with the spatial location of rewards. Here we ask whether rats can localize static silent objects with other body parts in the dark, and if so with what resolution. We addressed these questions in trained rats, whose interactions with the objects were tracked at high-resolution before and after whisker trimming. We found that rats can use other body parts, such as trunk and ears, to localize objects. Localization resolution with non-whisking body parts (henceforth, ‘body’) was poorer than that obtained with whiskers, even when left with a single whisker at each side. Part of the superiority of whiskers was obtained via the use of multiple contacts. Transfer from whisker to body localization occurred within one session, provided that body contacts with the objects occurred before whisker trimming, or in the next session otherwise. This transfer occurred whether temporal cues were used for discrimination or when discrimination was based on spatial cues alone. Rats’ decision in each trial was based on the sensory cues acquired in that trial and on decisions and reward locations in previous trials. When sensory cues were acquired by body contacts, rat decisions relied more on the reward location in previous trials. Overall, the results suggest that rats can generalize the idea of relative object location across different body parts, while preferring to rely on whiskers-based localization, which occurs earlier and conveys higher resolution.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Eldad Assa and Oren Forkosh for technical support and discussions. Funding. This project has received funding from the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 1127/14), and the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF, Grant No. 2017216), the European Research Council (ERC, Grant No. 786949). EA holds the Helen Diller Family Professorial Chair of Neurobiology.
© Copyright © 2019 Deutsch, Schneidman and Ahissar.
- active touch
- sensory history
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience