Complexity and temporal dynamics of frequency coding in the awake rat auditory cortex


: Dr Bernhard H. Gaese, as above.


Auditory cortical neurons are elements of a neuronal network that decomposes sounds into spectral and temporal information. In particular, their frequency selectivity has been investigated in great detail. Most studies used anaesthetized preparations and found mainly simple V-shaped tuning. The few data available from awake animals indicate that more complex forms of spectral receptive fields, i.e. frequency response areas, can be found there. We investigated frequency response areas in the awake rat primary auditory cortex using statistical evaluation and found complex forms of frequency response areas with several separate subregions in many neurons, besides classical V-shaped tuning. Response areas, as determined with narrow band noise, were very similar to those measured with pure tones. Their width was well correlated to the response strength to white noise stimulation. These results suggest that the excitatory subregions of frequency response areas were the neurons' predominant characteristic, relevant also for the processing of more complex types of stimuli. Investigating the spectrotemporal dynamics of frequency response areas revealed that approximately one-third of the neurons showed long-lasting excitatory or inhibitory components in addition to the typical ON-response. Inhibition was usually of longer duration and occurred mainly in frequency ranges outside the range of initial excitatory responses. These results indicate that auditory cortical neurons in awake animals can represent spectrotemporal information of rather different complexity.