The objective of the project is the study, development and simulation of computational models of cutaneous mechanoreceptors that may provide subsidies and tools to investigate how a population of these sensory receptors encodes mechanical variations that occur to the skin surface. Its future use will be on projects that investigate the phenomenon of stochastic resonance in touch and in projects that examine the postural control by mathematical modeling. The latter will need mathematical models that describe the sensory inflow from the soles of the feet. These two examples of application relate to works that are under development in the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at USP. To achieve the proposed objectives, the first step is an in-depth study of the dynamics of the cutaneous receptors based on book chapters and scientific articles (see resources) that describe both the results of experiments and mathematical modeling. Concomitant to the study of the mathematical models already described in the literature, their computational implementation will be done in MATLAB ®, allowing for comparisons between model and biological data. This step will allow an appraisal of the quality of each of the available models and the creation of new ideas for improvements to the existing models.The theoretical study aims at understanding the four major mechanoreceptors: Meissner's corpuscle, Merkel's disks, Pacini's corpuscle and Ruffini's endings. This study of the experimental literature will give support to the study and the development of models, as well as for their subsequent validation. This study also covers the forms of computational representation of the neurophysiological elements. The first approach will be the adoption of a leaky integrator type model, because this model gives a simple approximation to the behavior of the neuronal membrane potential. A new conductance formulation will probably have to be added with appropriate dynamics to model the phenomenon of adaptation, which is of fundamental importance in the characterization of different types of cutaneous mechanoreceptors. Another topic that is planned to be analyzed is the use of a pre-neuronal mathematical model of specific filters to mimic the effects of visco-elastic skin and receptor encapsulations. These mechanical filters must have an important effect on the patterns of neural responses of a given mechanoreceptor, hence the relevance of their study.According to the progress and goals achieved in the project, model expansions will be developed to achieve greater biological realism.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: