• local field potentials;
  • multiple single units;
  • perstimulatory recovery;
  • receptive fields


Sensory systems use adaptive strategies to code for the changing environment on different time scales. Short-term adaptation (up to 100 ms) reflects mostly synaptic suppression mechanisms after response to a stimulus. Long-term adaptation (up to a few seconds) is reflected in the habituation of neuronal responses to constant stimuli. Very long-term adaptation (several weeks) can lead to plastic changes in the cortex, most often facilitated during early development, by stimulus relevance or by behavioral states such as attention. In this study, we show that long-term adaptation with a time course of tens of minutes is detectable in anesthetized adult cat auditory cortex after a few minutes of listening to random-frequency tone pips. After the initial post-onset suppression, a slow recovery of the neuronal response strength to tones at or near their best frequency was observed for low-rate random sounds (four pips per octave per second) during stimulation. The firing rate at the end of stimulation (15 min) reached levels close to that observed during the initial onset response. The effect, visible for both spikes and, to a smaller extent, local field potentials, decreased with increasing spectro-temporal density of the sound. The spectro-temporal density of sound may therefore be of particular relevance in cortical processing. Our findings suggest that low stimulus rates may produce a specific acoustic environment that shapes the primary auditory cortex through very different processing than for spectro-temporally more dense and complex sounds.