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A neural surveyor to map touch on the body

Miller, LE; Fabio, C; Azaroual, M; Muret, D; van Beers, RJ; Farnè, A; Medendorp, WP; (2022) A neural surveyor to map touch on the body. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 119 (1) , Article e2102233118. 10.1073/pnas.2102233118. Green open access

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Abstract

Perhaps the most recognizable sensory map in all of neuroscience is the somatosensory homunculus. Although it seems straightforward, this simple representation belies the complex link between an activation in a somatotopic map and the associated touch location on the body. Any isolated activation is spatially ambiguous without a neural decoder that can read its position within the entire map, but how this is computed by neural networks is unknown. We propose that the somatosensory system implements multilateration, a common computation used by surveying and global positioning systems to localize objects. Specifically, to decode touch location on the body, multilateration estimates the relative distance between the afferent input and the boundaries of a body part (e.g., the joints of a limb). We show that a simple feedforward neural network, which captures several fundamental receptive field properties of cortical somatosensory neurons, can implement a Bayes-optimal multilateral computation. Simulations demonstrated that this decoder produced a pattern of localization variability between two boundaries that was unique to multilateration. Finally, we identify this computational signature of multilateration in actual psychophysical experiments, suggesting that it is a candidate computational mechanism underlying tactile localization.

Type: Article
Title: A neural surveyor to map touch on the body
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2102233118
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2102233118
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND). See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Keywords: somatosensory, tactile localization, computation, neural network
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10141749
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