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J Neurosci. 2019 Jul 31;39(31):6108-6121. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0041-18.2019. Epub 2019 Jun 7.

Evoked Response Strength in Primary Auditory Cortex Predicts Performance in a Spectro-Spatial Discrimination Task in Rats.

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Institute of Neuroinformatics, University and ETH Zurich, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland
Institute of Neuroinformatics, University and ETH Zurich, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland.


The extent to which the primary auditory cortex (A1) participates in instructing animal behavior remains debated. Although multiple studies have shown A1 activity to correlate with animals' perceptual judgments (Jaramillo and Zador, 2011; Bizley et al., 2013; Rodgers and DeWeese, 2014), others have found no relationship between A1 responses and reported auditory percepts (Lemus et al., 2009; Dong et al., 2011). To address this ambiguity, we performed chronic recordings of evoked local field potentials (eLFPs) in A1 of head-fixed female rats performing a two-alternative forced-choice auditory discrimination task. Rats were presented with two interleaved sequences of pure tones from opposite sides and had to indicate the side from which the higher-frequency target stimulus was played. Animal performance closely correlated (r rm = 0.68) with the difference between the target and distractor eLFP responses: the more the target response exceeded the distractor response, the better the animals were at identifying the side of the target frequency. Reducing the evoked response of either frequency through stimulus-specific adaptation affected performance in the expected way: target localization accuracy was degraded when the target frequency was adapted and improved when the distractor frequency was adapted. Target frequency eLFPs were stronger on hit trials than on error trials. Our results suggest that the degree to which one stimulus stands out over others within A1 activity may determine its perceptual saliency for the animals and accordingly bias their behavioral choices.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The brain must continuously calibrate the saliency of sensory percepts against their relevance to the current behavioral goal. The inability to ignore irrelevant distractors characterizes a spectrum of human attentional disorders. Meanwhile, the connection between the neural underpinnings of stimulus saliency and sensory decisions remains elusive. Here, we record local field potentials in the primary auditory cortex of rats engaged in auditory discrimination to investigate how the cortical representation of target and distractor stimuli impacts behavior. We find that the amplitude difference between target- and distractor-evoked activity predicts discrimination performance (r rm = 0.68). Specific adaptation of target or distractor shifts performance either below or above chance, respectively. It appears that recent auditory history profoundly influences stimulus saliency, biasing animals toward diametrically-opposed decisions.


SSA; attention; auditory cortex; discrimination; evoked LFP; rats

[Available on 2020-01-31]

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