2nd April 2012

Tony Prescott and Pete Redgrave win Weizmann-UK joint programme grant

Professors Tony Prescott and Pete Redgrave have won a grant under the Weizmann-UK joint programme on "The development of motor-sensory strategies for vibrissal active touch". The value of the project is $100,000 over two years, of which UoS will receive 50% ($50,000). The collaborator at the Weizmann Institute is Ehud Ahissar. A summary of the project is below.

"Development of motor-sensory strategies for vibrissal active touch"

Animals actively regulate the position and movement of their sensory systems to boost the quality and quantity of the sensory information they obtain from their surroundings. Rats and mice sweep their facial whiskers back and forth at high speeds in a controlled and feedback-sensitive manner to acquire tactile sensory information through contact with environmental structures. Here we will investigate motor-sensory strategies step-by-step by tracking and analyzing the development of such strategies in newborn rodents. We will study two tactile specialists: rats and mice. In order to address environmental factors three types of rearing environments will be studied: standard laboratory housing, enriched housing which evokes motor-sensory activity, and natural-like habitat in which the animals are allowed to freely traverse between a secure shelter (nest-cage) and a novel environment. Using high spatio-temporal resolution videography we will monitor daily sequences of whisking behavior from day one in the nest-cage until the juvenile rodents begin exploring the novel world outside. The study is expected to provide a comprehensive description of the development and maturation of whisking behavior, and to reveal basic principles of brain control of active touch and factors affecting their development. We expect that such insights will be valuable for understanding development and use of touch as well as other mammalian sensory systems.