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Nat Neurosci. 2003 Nov;6(11):1216-23. Epub 2003 Oct 28.

Rapid task-related plasticity of spectrotemporal receptive fields in primary auditory cortex.

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Center for Auditory and Acoustic Research, Institute for Systems Research, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


We investigated the hypothesis that task performance can rapidly and adaptively reshape cortical receptive field properties in accord with specific task demands and salient sensory cues. We recorded neuronal responses in the primary auditory cortex of behaving ferrets that were trained to detect a target tone of any frequency. Cortical plasticity was quantified by measuring focal changes in each cell's spectrotemporal response field (STRF) in a series of passive and active behavioral conditions. STRF measurements were made simultaneously with task performance, providing multiple snapshots of the dynamic STRF during ongoing behavior. Attending to a specific target frequency during the detection task consistently induced localized facilitative changes in STRF shape, which were swift in onset. Such modulatory changes may enhance overall cortical responsiveness to the target tone and increase the likelihood of 'capturing' the attended target during the detection task. Some receptive field changes persisted for hours after the task was over and hence may contribute to long-term sensory memory.

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