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Biol Cybern. 2002 Dec;87(5-6):333-43.

Cortical network reorganization guided by sensory input features.

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Neuroscience Program, School of Human Development, GR 41, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75083-0688, USA.


Sensory experience alters the functional organization of cortical networks. Previous studies using behavioral training motivated by aversive or rewarding stimuli have demonstrated that cortical plasticity is specific to salient inputs in the sensory environment. Sensory experience associated with electrical activation of the basal forebrain (BasF) generates similar input specific plasticity. By directly engaging plasticity mechanisms and avoiding extensive behavioral training, BasF stimulation makes it possible to efficiently explore how specific sensory features contribute to cortical plasticity. This review summarizes our observations that cortical networks employ a variety of strategies to improve the representation of the sensory environment. Different combinations of receptive-field, temporal, and spectrotemporal plasticity were generated in primary auditory cortex neurons depending on the pitch, modulation rate, and order of sounds paired with BasF stimulation. Simple tones led to map expansion, while modulated tones altered the maximum cortical following rate. Exposure to complex acoustic sequences led to the development of combination-sensitive responses. This remodeling of cortical response characteristics may reflect changes in intrinsic cellular mechanisms, synaptic efficacy, and local neuronal connectivity. The intricate relationship between the pattern of sensory activation and cortical plasticity suggests that network-level rules alter the functional organization of the cortex to generate the most behaviorally useful representation of the sensory environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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