The neocortex, comprised of multiple distinct layers, processes sensory input from the periphery, makes decisions, and executes actions. Despite extensive investigation of cortical anatomy and physiology, the contributions of different cortical layers to sensory guided behaviors remain unknown. Here, we developed a two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) paradigm in which head-fixed mice use a single whisker to either discriminate textures of parametrically varied roughness or detect the same textured surfaces. Lesioning the barrel cortex revealed that 2AFC texture discrimination, but not detection, was cortex-dependent. Paralyzing the whisker pad had little effect on performance, demonstrating that passive can rival active perception and cortical dependence is not movement-related. Transgenic Cre lines were used to target inhibitory opsins to excitatory cortical neurons of specific layers for selective perturbations. Both deep and superficial layers were indispensable for texture discrimination. We conclude that even basic cortical computations require coordinated transformation of sensory information across layers.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience