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Trends Neurosci. 1999 Feb;22(2):74-80.

Auditory cortical plasticity: a comparison with other sensory systems.

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Georgetown Institute for Cognitive and Computational Sciences, Washington, DC 20007, USA.


The auditory cortex has a crucial role in higher cognitive functions, including the perception of speech, music and auditory space. Cortical plasticity, as in other sensory systems, is used in the fine tuning of the auditory system for these higher functions. Auditory cortical plasticity can also be demonstrated after lesions of the cochlea and it appears to participate in generating tinnitus. Early musical training leads to an expansion in the representation of complex harmonic sounds in the auditory cortex. Similarly, the early phonetic environment has a strong influence on speech development and, presumably, on the cortical organization of speech. In auditory spatial perception, the spectral cues generated by the head and outer ears vary between individuals and have to be calibrated by learning, which most probably takes place at the cortical level. The neural mechanisms of plasticity are likely to be the same across all cortical regions. It should be useful, therefore, to relate some of the findings and hypotheses about auditory cortical plasticity to previous studies of other sensory systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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