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Empirically inspired simulated electro-mechanical model of the rat mystacial follicle-sinus complex

Mitchinson, Ben; Gurney, Kevin N.; Redgrave, Peter; Melhuish, Chris; Pipe, Anthony G.; Pearson, Martin; Gilhespy, Ian; Prescott, Tony J.


Ben Mitchinson

Kevin N. Gurney

Peter Redgrave

Chris Melhuish
Professor of Robotics & Autonomous Systems

Ian Gilhespy

Tony J. Prescott


In whiskered animals, activity is evoked in the primary sensory afferent cells (trigeminal nerve) by mechanical stimulation of the whiskers. In some cell populations this activity is correlated well with continuous stimulus parameters such as whisker deflection magnitude, but in others it is observed to represent events such as whisker-stimulator contact or detachment. The transduction process is mediated by the mechanics of the whisker shaft and follicle-sinus complex (FSC), and the mechanics and electro-chemistry of mechanoreceptors within the FSC. An understanding of this transduction process and the nature of the primary neural codes generated is crucial for understanding more central sensory processing in the thalamus and cortex. However, the details of the peripheral processing are currently poorly understood. To overcome this deficiency in our knowledge, we constructed a simulated electro-mechanical model of the whisker-FSC-mechanoreceptor system in the rat and tested it against a variety of data drawn from the literature. The agreement was good enough to suggest that the model captures many of the key features of the peripheral whisker system in the rat. © 2004 The Royal Society.


Mitchinson, B., Gurney, K. N., Redgrave, P., Melhuish, C., Pipe, A. G., Pearson, M., …Prescott, T. J. (2004). Empirically inspired simulated electro-mechanical model of the rat mystacial follicle-sinus complex. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 271(1556), 2509-2516.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 7, 2004
Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Print ISSN 0962-8452
Electronic ISSN 1471-2970
Publisher Royal Society, The
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 271
Issue 1556
Pages 2509-2516
Keywords whisker, follicle, model, mystacial, trigeminal, rat
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This original study has brought together engineers and neuroscientists to develop biologically plausible hardware implementations of neural structures. Specifically, the follicle sinus complex and primary afferent nerve fibres from the root of each facial whisker that project to the brain stem of a rat. This was an important part of a larger project to build a more complete hardware implementation of the rat whisker sensory system. The work required a detailed hypothetical model to be developed using rigorous testing and comparison with real electrophysiological data. This later led to further European funding to develop neurologically based techniques for navigation and sensing by touch within a EU consortium. Some of the techniques used were also employed in a further EPSRC project to build a hardware model of a cerebellum mediated controller. The paper is used in teaching modules and has 9 Google Scholar citations.