We know your cat’s whiskers are handsome — but you can’t even see the cool part.
The base of the whisker, which is responsible for sending touch signals to the brain, is hidden inside the follicle, a deep pocket that embeds the whisker within the skin. Because this section of the whisker is obscured, understanding precisely how whiskers communicate touch to the brain has been a longstanding mystery.
In a new study, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Northwestern University has developed the first mechanical simulation of the whisker inside the follicle. By combining their new model with new anatomical observations, the researchers discovered that when whiskers touch an object, they form an “S”-shaped bend within the follicle. By bending into this “S” shape, the whisker pushes or pulls on sensor cells, which then send touch signals to the brain.
The research was published on April 1, 2021, in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.
Read the story here: news.northwestern.edu/stories/2021/04/whisker-simulation-gives-insight-into-mammals-sense-of-touch/