Neural responses in the primary auditory cortex of freely behaving cats while discriminating fast and slow click-trains

PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25895. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025895. Epub 2011 Oct 5.


Repeated acoustic events are ubiquitous temporal features of natural sounds. To reveal the neural representation of the sound repetition rate, a number of electrophysiological studies have been conducted on various mammals and it has been proposed that both the spike-time and firing rate of primary auditory cortex (A1) neurons encode the repetition rate. However, previous studies rarely examined how the experimental animals perceive the difference in the sound repetition rate, and a caveat to these experiments is that they compared physiological data obtained from animals with psychophysical data obtained from humans. In this study, for the first time, we directly investigated acoustic perception and the underlying neural mechanisms in the same experimental animal by examining spike activities in the A1 of free-moving cats while performing a Go/No-go task to discriminate the click-trains at different repetition rates (12.5-200 Hz). As reported by previous studies on passively listening animals, A1 neurons showed both synchronized and non-synchronized responses to the click-trains. We further found that the neural performance estimated from the precise temporal information of synchronized units was good enough to distinguish all 16.7-200 Hz from the 12.5 Hz repetition rate; however, the cats showed declining behavioral performance with the decrease of the target repetition rate, indicating an increase of difficulty in discriminating two slower click-trains. Such behavioral performance was well explained by the firing rate of some synchronized and non-synchronized units. Trial-by-trial analysis indicated that A1 activity was not affected by the cat's judgment of behavioral response. Our results suggest that the main function of A1 is to effectively represent temporal signals using both spike timing and firing rate, while the cats may read out the rate-coding information to perform the task in this experiment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / cytology*
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Psychometrics