Spectrotemporal receptive fields in the lemniscal auditory thalamus and cortex

J Neurophysiol. 2002 Jan;87(1):516-27. doi: 10.1152/jn.00395.2001.


Receptive fields have been characterized independently in the lemniscal auditory thalamus and cortex, usually with spectrotemporally simple sounds tailored to a specific task. No studies have employed naturalistic stimuli to investigate the thalamocortical transformation in temporal, spectral, and aural domains simultaneously and under identical conditions. We recorded simultaneously in the ventral division of the medial geniculate body (MGBv) and in primary auditory cortex (AI) of the ketamine-anesthetized cat. Spectrotemporal receptive fields (STRFs) of single units (n = 387) were derived by reverse-correlation with a broadband and dynamically varying stimulus, the dynamic ripple. Spectral integration, as measured by excitatory bandwidth and spectral modulation preference, was similar across both stations (mean Q(1/e) thalamus = 5.8, cortex = 5.4; upper cutoff of spectral modulation transfer function, thalamus = 1.30 cycles/octave, cortex = 1.37 cycles/octave). Temporal modulation rates slowed by a factor of two from thalamus to cortex (mean preferred rate, thalamus = 32.4 Hz, cortex = 16.6 Hz; upper cutoff of temporal modulation transfer function, thalamus = 62.9 Hz, cortex = 37.4 Hz). We found no correlation between spectral and temporal integration properties, suggesting that the excitatory-inhibitory interactions underlying preference in each domain are largely independent. A small number of neurons in each station had highly asymmetric STRFs, evidence of frequency sweep selectivity, but the population showed no directional bias. Binaural preferences differed in their relative proportions, most notably an increased prevalence of excitatory contralateral-only cells in cortex (40%) versus thalamus (23%), indicating a reorganization of this parameter. By comparing simultaneously along multiple stimulus dimensions in both stations, these observations establish the global characteristics of the thalamocortical receptive field transformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Thalamus / physiology*