Microstimulation of sensory cortex engages natural sensory representations

Ravi Pancholi, Andrew Sun-Yan, Simon Peron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cortical activity patterns occupy a small subset of possible network states. If this is due to intrinsic network properties, microstimulation of sensory cortex should evoke activity patterns resembling those observed during natural sensory input. Here, we use optical microstimulation of virally transfected layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons in the mouse primary vibrissal somatosensory cortex to compare artificially evoked activity with natural activity evoked by whisker touch and movement (“whisking”). We find that photostimulation engages touch- but not whisking-responsive neurons more than expected by chance. Neurons that respond to photostimulation and touch or to touch alone exhibit higher spontaneous pairwise correlations than purely photoresponsive neurons. Exposure to several days of simultaneous touch and optogenetic stimulation raises both overlap and spontaneous activity correlations among touch and photoresponsive neurons. We thus find that cortical microstimulation engages existing cortical representations and that repeated co-presentation of natural and artificial stimulation enhances this effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1765-1777.e5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 8 2023


  • barrel cortex
  • cortex
  • cortical plasticity
  • microstimulation
  • pattern completion
  • recurrent networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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