Effects of arousal and movement on secondary somatosensory and visual thalamus.
Petty GH., Kinnischtzke AK., Hong YK., Bruno RM.
Neocortical sensory areas have associated primary and secondary thalamic nuclei. While primary nuclei transmit sensory information to cortex, secondary nuclei remain poorly understood. We recorded juxtasomally from secondary somatosensory (POm) and visual (LP) nuclei of awake mice while tracking whisking and pupil size. POm activity correlated with whisking, but not precise whisker kinematics. This coarse movement modulation persisted after facial paralysis and thus was not due to sensory reafference. This phenomenon also continued during optogenetic silencing of somatosensory and motor cortex and after lesion of superior colliculus, ruling out a motor efference copy mechanism. Whisking and pupil dilation were strongly correlated, possibly reflecting arousal. Indeed LP, which is not part of the whisker system, tracked whisking equally well, further indicating that POm activity does not encode whisker movement per se. The semblance of movement-related activity is likely instead a global effect of arousal on both nuclei. We conclude that secondary thalamus monitors behavioral state, rather than movement, and may exist to alter cortical activity accordingly.