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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 May 4;101(18):7170-4. Epub 2004 Apr 26.

Specialization of primary auditory cortex processing by sound exposure in the "critical period".

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  • 1Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Environmental acoustic exposure to a complex tone sequence within the critical period in infant rats resulted in the emergence of large-scale, selective changes that radically altered primary auditory cortex (A1) organization. In the sound exposure-revised A1, responses were segregated into two explicit zones representing spectrally and temporally separated lower and higher frequency tone sequence progressions. Cortical neurons between these two A1 zones were poorly driven by sound stimuli. Stimulus sequence-specific ("combination-selective") responses emerged in the A1 of exposed rats. These selective representational changes induced in the critical period persisted into adulthood. These results show that the temporal order and pace of early, repetitive postnatal auditory inputs strongly affect the emergent and enduring functional organization of A1.

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