Bilateral plasticity of vibrissae SII representation induced by classical conditioning in mice

The somatosensory cortex in mice contains primary (SI) and secondary (SII) areas, differing in somatotopic precision, topographic organization and function. The role of SII in somatosensory processing is still poorly understood. SII is activated bilaterally during attentional tasks and is considered to play a role in tactile memory and sensorimotor integration. We measured the plasticity of SII activation following associative learning based on classical conditioning, in which unilateral stimulation of one row of vibrissae was paired with an aversive stimulus. The training consisted of 3 daily 10 min sessions, during which 40 pairings were delivered. Cortical activation driven by stimulation of vibrissae was mapped with [14C]-2-deoxyglucose (2DG) autoradiography one day after the end of conditioning. We reported previously that the conditioning procedure resulted in unilateral enlargement of 2DG-labeled cortical representation of the “trained” row of vibrissae in SI. Here we measured the width and intensity of the labeled region in SII. We found that all the measured parameters in SII increased bilaterally. The increase was observed in cortical layers II/III and IV. Apparently plasticity in SII is not a simple reflection of changes in SI. It may be due to bilateral integrative role of SII, its lesser topographical specificity and strong involvement in attentional processing.

18 October 2011