Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology – Functional Imaging and Neurovascular Coupling

Sensory processing in the rodent barrel cortex

How sensory information is processed and how it is modulated by other brain areas is a key question in systems neuroscience. The long-term goal of our research is to understand how neuronal networks in different parts of the brain interact during perception and how this information is used in processes of decision-making. The representation of this information is however highly dependent on the animal’s brain state. Using operant conditioning, functional two-photon population imaging, multielectrode recordings and optogenetics we are investigating how tactile features are encoded in large populations of neurons. We are especially interested in how the network-state dynamics in the microcircuit of the primary somatosensory (barrel cortex) change during different behavioral conditions in a newly developed bilateral frequency discrimination paradigm. In addition we are interested in how acetylcholine is involved in switching states in the neocortex to adapt the computational needs in various behavioral conditions and what the role of acetylcholine is in plasticity and learning.

In-vivo two-photon image of neurons in the layer I (top, left) and layer II (bottom, left) of the primary somatosensory cortex expressing the genetically encoded calcium indicator Yellow Cameleon 3.60. Right: In-vivo two-photon image of neurons (green, stained with OGB-1 AM) and astrocytes (red, stained with SR101) in the layer I after blood replacement with perfluorocarbon.


Contact Person

Dr. Wolfger Von Der Behrens 

Team members

Dr. Florent Haiss

Johannes Mayrhofer

Vida Škreb

Simon Musall

Collaborating groups

Fritjof Helmchen, Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich, Zurich 

Cornelius Schwarz, Hertie Institute, Tübingen, Germany  

Prof. Dr. Thomas Knöpfel, The Laboratory for Neuronal Circuit Dynamics, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan 

Prof. Dr. Klaas Enno Stephan, Computational Neuroeconomics Group, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zürich, Switzerland. 


Haiss F, Schwarz C (2005) Spatial segregation of different modes of movement control in the whisker representation of rat primary motor cortex. J Neurosci 25:1579–1587.

Hentschke H, Haiss F, Schwarz C (2006) Central signals rapidly switch tactile processing in rat barrel cortex during whisker movements. Cereb Cortex 16:1142–1156.

Ferezou I, Haiss F, Gentet LJ, Aronoff R, Weber B, Petersen CC (2007) Spatiotemporal dynamics of cortical sensorimotor integration in behaving mice. Neuron 56(5):907-23.

Haiss F, Jolivet R, Wyss MT, Reichold J, Braham NB, Scheffold F, Krafft MP, Weber B (2009). Improved in vivo two-photon imaging after blood replacement by perfluorocarbon. J Physiol. 1;587(Pt 13):3153-8

Funding Neurochoice

BRAIN-I-NETS FP7-ICT-2009-C European Union

BrainScaleS FP7-FET-Proactive European Union

Swiss National Science Foundation

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