Auditory cortex spatial sensitivity sharpens during task performance

Nat Neurosci. 2011 Jan;14(1):108-14. doi: 10.1038/nn.2713. Epub 2010 Dec 12.


Activity in the primary auditory cortex (A1) is essential for normal sound localization behavior, but previous studies of the spatial sensitivity of neurons in A1 have found broad spatial tuning. We tested the hypothesis that spatial tuning sharpens when an animal engages in an auditory task. Cats performed a task that required evaluation of the locations of sounds and one that required active listening, but in which sound location was irrelevant. Some 26-44% of the units recorded in A1 showed substantially sharpened spatial tuning during the behavioral tasks as compared with idle conditions, with the greatest sharpening occurring during the location-relevant task. Spatial sharpening occurred on a scale of tens of seconds and could be replicated multiple times in ∼1.5-h test sessions. Sharpening resulted primarily from increased suppression of responses to sounds at least-preferred locations. That and an observed increase in latencies suggest an important role of inhibitory mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sound Localization / physiology*