Learning and memory involve the storage of specific sensory experiences. However, until recently the idea that the primary sensory cortices could store specific memory traces had received little attention. Converging evidence obtained using techniques from sensory physiology and the neurobiology of learning and memory supports the idea that the primary auditory cortex acquires and retains specific memory traces about the behavioural significance of selected sounds. The cholinergic system of the nucleus basalis, when properly engaged, is sufficient to induce both specific memory traces and specific behavioural memory. A contemporary view of the primary auditory cortex should incorporate its mnemonic and other cognitive functions.