State-dependent encoding of sound and behavioral meaning in a tertiary region of the ferret auditory cortex

Nat Neurosci. 2019 Mar;22(3):447-459. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0317-8. Epub 2019 Jan 28.


In higher sensory cortices, there is a gradual transformation from sensation to perception and action. In the auditory system, this transformation is revealed by responses in the rostral ventral posterior auditory field (VPr), a tertiary area in the ferret auditory cortex, which shows long-term learning in trained compared to naïve animals, arising from selectively enhanced responses to behaviorally relevant target stimuli. This enhanced representation is further amplified during active performance of spectral or temporal auditory discrimination tasks. VPr also shows sustained short-term memory activity after target stimulus offset, correlated with task response timing and action. These task-related changes in auditory filter properties enable VPr neurons to quickly and nimbly switch between different responses to the same acoustic stimuli, reflecting either spectrotemporal properties, timing, or behavioral meaning of the sound. Furthermore, they demonstrate an interaction between the dynamics of short-term attention and long-term learning, as incoming sound is selectively attended, recognized, and translated into action.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Choice Behavior
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Ferrets
  • Neurons / physiology*