We investigate the formation and maintenance of ordered topographic maps in the primary somatosensory cortex as well as the reorganization of representations after sensory deprivation or cortical lesion. We consider both the critical period (postnatal) where representations are shaped and the post-critical period where representations are maintained and possibly reorganized. We hypothesize that feed-forward thalamocortical connections are an adequate site of plasticity while cortico-cortical connections are believed to drive a competitive mechanism that is critical for learning. We model a small skin patch located on the distal phalangeal surface of a digit as a set of 256 Merkel ending complexes (MEC) that feed a computational model of the primary somatosensory cortex (area 3b). This model is a two-dimensional neural field where spatially localized solutions (a.k.a. bumps) drive cortical plasticity through a Hebbian-like learning rule. Simulations explain the initial formation of ordered representations following repetitive and random stimulations of the skin patch. Skin lesions as well as cortical lesions are also studied and results confirm the possibility to reorganize representations using the same learning rule and depending on the type of the lesion. For severe lesions, the model suggests that cortico-cortical connections may play an important role in complete recovery.

References

  1. HAL | DOI | PDF | BibTeX | code.zip
    G. I. Detorakis and N. P. Rougier, “A Neural Field Model of the Somatosensory Cortex: Formation, Maintenance and Reorganization of Ordered Topographic Maps,” PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 7, p. e40257, 2012.