The neocortex is thought to employ a number of canonical computations, but little is known about whether these computations rely on shared mechanisms across different neural populations. In recent years, the mouse has emerged as a powerful model organism for the dissection of the circuits and mechanisms underlying various aspects of neural processing and therefore provides an important avenue for research into putative canonical computations. One such computation is contrast gain control, the systematic adjustment of neural gain in accordance with the contrast of sensory input, which helps to construct neural representations that are robust to the presence of background stimuli. Here, we characterized contrast gain control in the mouse auditory cortex. We performed laminar extracellular recordings in the auditory cortex of the anesthetized mouse while varying the contrast of the sensory input. We observed that an increase in stimulus contrast resulted in a compensatory reduction in the gain of neural responses, leading to representations in the mouse auditory cortex that are largely contrast invariant. Contrast gain control was present in all cortical layers but was found to be strongest in deep layers, indicating that intracortical mechanisms may contribute to these gain changes. These results lay a foundation for investigations into the mechanisms underlying contrast adaptation in the mouse auditory cortex. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We investigated whether contrast gain control, the systematic reduction in neural gain in response to an increase in sensory contrast, exists in the mouse auditory cortex. We performed extracellular recordings in the mouse auditory cortex while presenting sensory stimuli with varying contrasts and found this form of processing was widespread. This finding provides evidence that contrast gain control may represent a canonical cortical computation and lays a foundation for investigations into the underlying mechanisms.
Keywords: auditory cortex; contrast; gain control; mouse; spectrotemporal receptive field.