Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 23054598
J. Neurophysiol. 2013 Jan;109(1):273-84
Rats and mice receive a constant bilateral stream of tactile information with their large mystacial vibrissae when navigating in their environment. In a two-alternative forced choice paradigm (2-AFC), head-fixed rats and mice learned to discriminate vibrotactile frequencies applied simultaneously to individual whiskers on the left and right sides of the snout. Mice and rats discriminated 90-Hz pulsatile stimuli from pulsatile stimuli with lower repetition frequencies (10-80 Hz) but with identical kinematic properties in each pulse. Psychometric curves displayed an average perceptual threshold of 50.6-Hz and 53.0-Hz frequency difference corresponding to Weber fractions of 0.56 and 0.58 in mice and rats, respectively. Both species performed >400 trials a day (>200 trials per session, 2 sessions/day), with a peak performance of >90% correct responses. In general, rats and mice trained in the identical task showed comparable psychometric curves. Behavioral readouts, such as reaction times, learning rates, trial omissions, and impulsivity, were also very similar in the two species. Furthermore, whisking of the animals before stimulus presentation reduced task performance. This behavioral paradigm, combined with whisker position tracking, allows precise stimulus control in the 2-AFC task for head-fixed rodents. It is compatible with state-of-the-art neurophysiological recording techniques, such as electrophysiology and two-photon imaging, and therefore represents a valuable framework for neurophysiological investigations of perceptual decision-making.