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A few stray hairs

In mice, whisker recoil maps to sensory, not motor, part of brain

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6:52pm, November 25, 2010

The part of the mouse brain devoted to sensory input is moonlighting as a whisker-flicker, scientists have found. The result may prompt researchers to rethink strict descriptions of certain brain regions.

The new study, published November 26 in Science, shows that it’s not the brain’s motor cortex, which is in charge of voluntary motion, but rather the sensory cortex that tells a mouse to pull its whisker away from danger.

“This study furthers the whole line of thinking about the brain — that really, all these systems are deeply interconnected,” says neuroscientist Michael Graziano of Princeton University. “There’s a growing realization that it’s difficult to chop the brain up into little pieces and study them separately.”

In the new work, scientists led by Ferenc Matyas of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest saw that when a mouse deflected its whisker away from an object, neurons in t

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