Mechanoreceptor Synapses in the Brainstem Shape the Central Representation of Touch
61 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021 Publication Status: PublishedMore...
Mammals use the glabrous (hairless) skin of their hands and feet to navigate and manipulate their environment. Cortical maps of the body surface across species contain disproportionately large numbers of neurons dedicated to glabrous skin sensation, potentially reflecting a higher density of mechanoreceptors that innervate these skin regions. Here, we find that disproportionate representation of glabrous skin emerges over postnatal development at the first synapse between peripheral mechanoreceptors and their central targets in the brainstem. Mechanoreceptor synapses undergo developmental refinement that depends on proximity of their terminals to glabrous skin, such that those innervating glabrous skin make synaptic connections that expand their central representation. In mice that do not sense gentle touch, mechanoreceptors innervating glabrous skin still make more powerful synapses in the brainstem. We propose that the skin region a mechanoreceptor innervates controls refinement of its central synapses over development to shape the representation of touch in the brain.
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