Neuronal activities underlying a percept are constrained by the physics of sensory signals. In the tactile sense such constraints are frictional stick-slip events, occurring, amongst other vibrotactile features, when tactile sensors are in contact with objects. We reveal new biomechanical phenomena about the transmission of these microNewton forces at the tip of a rat’s whisker, where they occur, to the base where they engage primary afferents. Using high resolution videography and accurate measurement of axial and normal forces at the follicle, we show that the conical and curved rat whisker acts as a sign-converting amplification filter for moment to robustly engage primary afferents. Furthermore, we present a model based on geometrically nonlinear Cosserat rod theory and a friction model that recreates the observed whole-beam whisker dynamics. The model quantifies the relation between kinematics (positions and velocities) and dynamic variables (forces and moments). Thus, only videographic assessment of acceleration is required to estimate forces and moments measured by the primary afferents. Our study highlights how sensory systems deal with complex physical constraints of perceptual targets and sensors.
|Early online date||30 Jun 2021|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 30 Jun 2021|