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Nat Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(8):957-65. doi: 10.1038/nn.2144. Epub 2008 Jul 6.

Manipulating critical period closure across different sectors of the primary auditory cortex.

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W.M. Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Coleman Laboratory, Department of Otolaryngology, University of California, San Francisco, 513 Parnassus Avenue, Room HSE-808, Box 0732, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


During early brain development and through 'adult' experience-dependent plasticity, neural circuits are shaped to represent the external world with high fidelity. When raised in a quiet environment, the rat primary auditory cortex (A1) has a well-defined 'critical period', lasting several days, for its representation of sound frequency. The addition of environmental noise extends the critical period duration as a variable function of noise level. It remains unclear whether critical period closure should be regarded as a unified, externally gated event that applies for all of A1 or if it is controlled by progressive, local, activity-driven changes in this cortical area. We found that rearing rats in the presence of a spectrally limited noise band resulted in the closure of the critical period for A1 sectors representing the noise-free spectral bands, whereas the critical period appeared to remain open in noise-exposed sectors, where the cortex was still functionally and physically immature.

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