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J Acoust Soc Am. 2010 Sep;128(3):1446-51. doi: 10.1121/1.3377057.

Experience-dependent development of vocalization selectivity in the auditory cortex.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, 900 University Avenue, Riverside, California 92521, USA.


Vocalization-selective neurons are present in the auditory systems of several vertebrate groups. Vocalization selectivity is influenced by developmental experience, but the underlying mechanisms are only beginning to be understood. Evidence is presented in this review for the hypothesis that plasticity of timing and strength of inhibition is a mechanism for plasticity of vocalization selectivity. The pallid bat echolocates using downward frequency modulated (FM) sweeps. Nearly 70% of neurons with tuning in the echolocation frequency range in its auditory cortex respond selectively to the direction and rate of change of frequencies present in the echolocation call. During development, FM rate selectivity matures early, while direction selectivity emerges later. Based on the time course of development it was hypothesized that FM direction, but not rate, selectivity is experience-dependent. This hypothesis was tested by altering echolocation experience during development. The results show that normal echolocation experience is required for both refinement and maintenance of direction selectivity. Interestingly, experience is required for the maintenance of rate selectivity, but not for initial development. Across all ages and experimental groups, the timing relationship between inhibitory and excitatory inputs explains sweep selectivity. These experiments suggest that inhibitory plasticity is a substrate for experience-dependent changes in vocalization selectivity.

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