Flexible Sensory Representations in Auditory Cortex Driven by Behavioral Relevance

Neuron. 2015 Dec 2;88(5):1027-1039. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.10.024. Epub 2015 Nov 12.


Animals require the ability to ignore sensory stimuli that have no consequence yet respond to the same stimuli when they become useful. However, the brain circuits that govern this flexibility in sensory processing are not well understood. Here we show in mouse primary auditory cortex (A1) that daily passive sound exposure causes a long-lasting reduction in representations of the experienced sound by layer 2/3 pyramidal cells. This habituation arises locally in A1 and involves an enhancement in inhibition and selective upregulation in the activity of somatostatin-expressing inhibitory neurons (SOM cells). Furthermore, when mice engage in sound-guided behavior, pyramidal cell excitatory responses to habituated sounds are enhanced, whereas SOM cell responses are diminished. Together, our results demonstrate the bidirectional modulation of A1 sensory representations and suggest that SOM cells gate cortical information flow based on the behavioral relevance of the stimulus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / genetics
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels / genetics
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / genetics
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Parvalbumins / genetics
  • Parvalbumins / metabolism
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sound*
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Vesicular Inhibitory Amino Acid Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Vesicular Inhibitory Amino Acid Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Wakefulness


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels
  • Grhl3 protein, mouse
  • Parvalbumins
  • Scnn1a protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors
  • Vesicular Inhibitory Amino Acid Transport Proteins
  • Viaat protein, mouse
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase