Research Topic

Active Sensing

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Much of our current knowledge regarding the neuronal mechanisms underlying perception has been largely obtained by one principle paradigm. In this framework, the brain activity in different stages of the sensory pathway is sampled after the presentation of sensory stimuli, and an attempt is made to relate ...

Much of our current knowledge regarding the neuronal mechanisms underlying perception has been largely obtained by one principle paradigm. In this framework, the brain activity in different stages of the sensory pathway is sampled after the presentation of sensory stimuli, and an attempt is made to relate this activity to the physical properties of the stimuli, or to the behavioral performance of the animal or human subjects. Because in this paradigm, the subject has no control over the timing or other features of the incoming stimulus, this is considered a passive condition. This has been, for the most part, a successful enterprise. We have learned a great deal about how neurons respond to specific sets of stimuli, we have identified key components of the brain that participate in perception and have learn how neuronal activity correlate with performance on perceptual tasks.

However, ever since the rise of psychological and electrophysiological studies of perception, it has been known that the instances where animals and humans are faced with sudden sensory stimuli are only a small subset of the interactions of the organism with its environment. In fact, most of the changes in the sensory surface of humans and other animals, are a consequence of motor acts of sensor organs. Examples of that are eye movements in vision, hand movement in touch, sniffing in olfaction, whisker movement in rodent somatosensation, electric emission in fish electro-reception, among others.

Furthermore, these movements are often coordinated across different sensory modalities and executed at similar temporal patterns. This means that most of the time, changes in the sensory organs, are the result of an internal process of the nervous system. This motorguided sensation is then considered an active sensing process, which can function in a closed- or open-loop manner at each level of processing. The neuronal mechanisms that occur during active sensing may differ substantially from the passive ones because both receptor activations and neuronal dynamics are in most cases different in the two modes.

In this Research Topic "Active Sensing" in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, we welcome articles focused either open or closed loop processes between a motor and sensory activity. We welcome research articles on experimental or theoretical work. We also welcome perspectives on important conceptual and methodological questions that the field needs to address in the next years. We hope that this Research Topic will help Neuroscience community to learn from this paradigm shift in perception studies.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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