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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Mar 5;99(5):3205-9.

Order-sensitive plasticity in adult primary auditory cortex.

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  • 1Cognition and Neuroscience, School of Human Development, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75083-0688, USA.


The neural response to a stimulus presented as part of a rapid sequence is often quite different from the response to the same stimulus presented in isolation. In primary auditory cortex (A1), although the most common effect of preceding stimuli is inhibitory, most neurons can also exhibit response facilitation if the appropriate spectral and temporal separation of sequence elements is presented. In this study, we investigated whether A1 neurons in adult animals can develop context-dependent facilitation to a novel acoustic sequence. After repeatedly pairing electrical stimulation of the basal forebrain with a three-element sequence (high frequency tone--low frequency tone-- noise burst), 25% of A1 neurons exhibited facilitation to the low tone when preceded by the high tone, compared with only 5% in controls. In contrast, there was no increase in the percent of sites that showed facilitation for the reversed tone order (low preceding high). Nearly 60% of sites exhibited a facilitated response to the noise burst when preceded by the two tones. Although facilitation was greatest in response to the paired sequence, facilitation also generalized to related sequences that were either temporally distorted or missing one of the tones. Pairing basal forebrain stimulation with the acoustic sequence also caused a decrease in the time to peak response and an increase in population discharge synchrony, which was not seen after pairing simple tones, tone trains, or broadband stimuli. These results indicate that context-dependent facilitation and response synchronization can be substantially altered in an experience-dependent fashion and provide a potential mechanism for learning spectrotemporal patterns.

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