Coding of amplitude modulation in primary auditory cortex

J Neurophysiol. 2011 Feb;105(2):582-600. doi: 10.1152/jn.00621.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 8.


Conflicting results have led to different views about how temporal modulation is encoded in primary auditory cortex (A1). Some studies find a substantial population of neurons that change firing rate without synchronizing to temporal modulation, whereas other studies fail to see these nonsynchronized neurons. As a result, the role and scope of synchronized temporal and nonsynchronized rate codes in AM processing in A1 remains unresolved. We recorded A1 neurons' responses in awake macaques to sinusoidal AM noise. We find most (37-78%) neurons synchronize to at least one modulation frequency (MF) without exhibiting nonsynchronized responses. However, we find both exclusively nonsynchronized neurons (7-29%) and "mixed-mode" neurons (13-40%) that synchronize to at least one MF and fire nonsynchronously to at least one other. We introduce new measures for modulation encoding and temporal synchrony that can improve the analysis of how neurons encode temporal modulation. These include comparing AM responses to the responses to unmodulated sounds, and a vector strength measure that is suitable for single-trial analysis. Our data support a transformation from a temporally based population code of AM to a rate-based code as information ascends the auditory pathway. The number of mixed-mode neurons found in A1 indicates this transformation is not yet complete, and A1 neurons may carry multiplexed temporal and rate codes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Female
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*