Neural mechanisms underlying the capacity of memory to be rich in sensory detail are largely unknown. A candidate mechanism is learning-induced plasticity that remodels the adult sensory cortex. Here, expansion in the primary auditory cortical (A1) tonotopic map of rats was induced by pairing a 3.66-kHz tone with activation of the nucleus basalis, mimicking the effects of natural associative learning. Remodeling of A1 produced de novo specific behavioral memory, but neither memory nor plasticity was consistently at the frequency of the paired tone, which typically decreased in A1 representation. Rather, there was a specific match between individual subjects' area of expansion and the tone that was strongest in each animal's memory, as determined by post-training frequency generalization gradients. These findings provide the first demonstration of a match between the artificial induction of specific neural representational plasticity and artificial induction of behavioral memory. As such, together with prior and present findings for detection, correlation and mimicry of plasticity with the acquisition of memory, they satisfy a key criterion for neural substrates of memory. This demonstrates that directly remodeling sensory cortical maps is sufficient for the specificity of memory formation.
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