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J Physiol. 2012 Jul 1;590(13):3129-39. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.232892. Epub 2012 May 8.

Differential representation of auditory categories between cell classes in primate auditory cortex.

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3400 Spruce-5 Ravdin, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


A comprehensive understanding of the neural mechanisms of cognitive function requires an understanding of how neural representations are transformed across different scales of neural organization: from within local microcircuits to across different brain areas. However, the neural transformations within the local microcircuits are poorly understood. Particularly, the role that two main cell classes of neurons in cortical microcircuits (i.e. pyramidal neurons and interneurons) have in auditory behaviour and cognition remains unknown. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that pyramidal cells and interneurons in the auditory cortex play a differential role in auditory categorization. To test this hypothesis, we recorded single-unit activity from the auditory cortex of rhesus monkeys while they categorized speech sounds. Based on the spike-waveform shape, a neuron was classified as either a narrow-spiking putative interneuron or a broad-spiking putative pyramidal neuron. We found that putative interneurons and pyramidal neurons in the auditory cortex differentially coded category information: interneurons were more selective for auditory categories than pyramidal neurons. These differences between cell classes may be an essential property of the neural computations underlying auditory categorization within the microcircuitry of the auditory cortex.

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