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J Neurophysiol. 1998 Nov;80(5):2743-64.

Representation of spectral and temporal sound features in three cortical fields of the cat. Similarities outweigh differences.

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Departments of Physiology and Biophysics, and Psychology, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada.


This study investigates the degree of similarity of three different auditory cortical areas with respect to the coding of periodic stimuli. Simultaneous single- and multiunit recordings in response to periodic stimuli were made from primary auditory cortex (AI), anterior auditory field (AAF), and secondary auditory cortex (AII) in the cat to addresses the following questions: is there, within each cortical area, a difference in the temporal coding of periodic click trains, amplitude-modulated (AM) noise bursts, and AM tone bursts? Is there a difference in this coding between the three cortical fields? Is the coding based on the temporal modulation transfer function (tMTF) and on the all-order interspike-interval (ISI) histogram the same? Is the perceptual distinction between rhythm and roughness for AM stimuli related to a temporal versus spatial representation of AM frequency in auditory cortex? Are interarea differences in temporal response properties related to differences in frequency tuning? The results showed that: 1) AM stimuli produce much higher best modulation frequencies (BMFs) and limiting rates than periodic click trains. 2) For periodic click trains and AM noise, the BMFs and limiting rates were not significantly different for the three areas. However, for AM tones the BMF and limiting rates were about a factor 2 lower in AAF compared with the other areas. 3) The representation of stimulus periodicity in ISIs resulted in significantly lower mean BMFs and limiting rates compared with those estimated from the tMTFs. The difference was relatively small for periodic click trains but quite large for both AM stimuli, especially in AI and AII. 4) Modulation frequencies <20 Hz were represented in the ISIs, suggesting that rhythm is coded in auditory cortex in temporal fashion. 5) In general only a modest interdependence of spectral- and temporal-response properties in AI and AII was found. The BMFs were correlated positively with characteristic frequency in AAF. The limiting rate was positively correlated with the frequency-tuning curve bandwidth in AI and AII but not in AAF. Only in AAF was a correlation between BMF and minimum latency was found. Thus whereas differences were found in the frequency-tuning curve bandwidth and minimum response latencies among the three areas, the coding of periodic stimuli in these areas was fairly similar with the exception of the very poor representation of AM tones in AII. This suggests a strong parallel processing organization in auditory cortex.

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