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Neuroscience. 2013 Nov 12;252:80-97. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.08.005. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

Increasing diversity of neural responses to speech sounds across the central auditory pathway.

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The University of Texas at Dallas, School of Behavioral Brain Sciences, 800 West Campbell Road, GR41, Richardson, TX 75080-3021, United States. Electronic address:


Neurons at higher stations of each sensory system are responsive to feature combinations not present at lower levels. As a result, the activity of these neurons becomes less redundant than lower levels. We recorded responses to speech sounds from the inferior colliculus and the primary auditory cortex neurons of rats, and tested the hypothesis that primary auditory cortex neurons are more sensitive to combinations of multiple acoustic parameters compared to inferior colliculus neurons. We independently eliminated periodicity information, spectral information and temporal information in each consonant and vowel sound using a noise vocoder. This technique made it possible to test several key hypotheses about speech sound processing. Our results demonstrate that inferior colliculus responses are spatially arranged and primarily determined by the spectral energy and the fundamental frequency of speech, whereas primary auditory cortex neurons generate widely distributed responses to multiple acoustic parameters, and are not strongly influenced by the fundamental frequency of speech. We found no evidence that inferior colliculus or primary auditory cortex was specialized for speech features such as voice onset time or formants. The greater diversity of responses in primary auditory cortex compared to inferior colliculus may help explain how the auditory system can identify a wide range of speech sounds across a wide range of conditions without relying on any single acoustic cue.


A1; ANOVA; F1; F2; IC; PSTH; analysis of variance; first formant; inferior colliculus; multiple acoustic parameters; neural response diversity; noise-vocoded speech; post stimulus time histogram; primary auditory cortex; rat auditory system; redundancy reduction; second formant

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