Orbitofrontal Cortex Neurons Respond to Sound and Activate Primary Auditory Cortex Neurons

Cereb Cortex. 2018 Mar 1;28(3):868-879. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw409.


Sensory environments change over a wide dynamic range and sensory processing can change rapidly to facilitate stable perception. While rapid changes may occur throughout the sensory processing pathway, cortical changes are believed to profoundly influence perception. Prior stimulation studies showed that orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) can modify receptive fields and sensory coding in A1, but the engagement of OFC during listening and the pathways mediating OFC influences on A1 are unknown. We show in mice that OFC neurons respond to sounds consistent with a role of OFC in audition. We then show in vitro that OFC axons are present in A1 and excite pyramidal and GABAergic cells in all layers of A1 via glutamatergic synapses. Optogenetic stimulation of OFC terminals in A1 in vivo evokes short-latency neural activity in A1 and pairing activation of OFC projections in A1 with sounds alters sound-evoked A1 responses. Together, our results identify a direct connection from OFC to A1 that can excite A1 neurons at the earliest stage of cortical processing, and thereby sculpt A1 receptive fields. These results are consistent with a role for OFC in adjusting to changing behavioral relevance of sensory inputs and modulating A1 receptive fields to enhance sound processing.

Keywords: auditory cortex; mouse; orbitofrontal cortex; prefrontal cortex; top-down.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / cytology*
  • Auditory Perception
  • Axons / physiology
  • Channelrhodopsins / genetics
  • Channelrhodopsins / metabolism
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • Female
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / genetics
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sound*


  • Channelrhodopsins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 2