The lateral facial nucleus is the sole output structure whose neuronal activity leads to whisker movements. To understand how single facial nucleus neurons contribute to whisker movement we combined single-cell stimulation and high-precision whisker tracking. Half of the 44 stimulated neurons gave rise to fast whisker protraction or retraction movement, whereas no stimulation-evoked movements could be detected for the remainder. Direction, speed, and amplitude of evoked movements varied across neurons. Protraction movements were more common than retraction movements (n = 16 vs. n = 4), had larger amplitudes (1.8 vs. 0.3° for single spike events), and most protraction movements involved only a single whisker, whereas most retraction movements involved multiple whiskers. We found a large range in the amplitude of single spike-evoked whisker movements (0.06 -5.6°). Onset of the movement occurred at 7.6 (SD 2.5) ms after the spike and the time to peak deflection was 18.2 (SD 4.3) ms. Each spike reliably evoked a stereotyped movement. In two of five cases peak whisker deflection resulting from consecutive spikes was larger than expected when based on linear summation of single spike-evoked movement profiles. Our data suggest the following coding scheme for whisker movements in the facial nucleus. 1) Evoked movement characteristics depend on the identity of the stimulated neuron (a labeled line code). 2) The facial nucleus neurons are heterogeneous with respect to the movement properties they encode. 3) Facial nucleus spikes are translated in a one-to-one manner into whisker movements. Copyright

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Journal Journal of Neurophysiology
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Herfst, L.J, & Brecht, M. (2008). Whisker movements evoked by stimulation of single motor neurons in the facial nucleus of the rat. Journal of Neurophysiology, 99(6), 2821–2832. doi:10.1152/jn.01014.2007