The spectro-temporal receptive field. A functional characteristic of auditory neurons

Biol Cybern. 1981;42(2):133-43. doi: 10.1007/BF00336731.


The Spectro-Temporal Receptive Field (STRF) of an auditory neuron has been introduced experimentally on the base of the average spectro-temporal structure of the acoustic stimuli which precede the occurrence of action potentials (Aertsen et al., 1980, 1981). In the present paper the STRF is considered in the general framework of nonlinear system theory, especially in the form of the Volterra integral representation. The STRF is proposed to be formally identified with a linear functional of the second order Volterra kernel. The experimental determination of the STRF leads to a formulation in terms of the Wiener expansion where the kernels can be identified by evaluation of the system's input-output correlations. For a Gaussian stimulus ensemble and a nonlinear system with no even order contributions of order higher than two, it is shown that the second order cross correlation of stimulus and response, normalized with respect to the spectral contents of the stimulus ensemble, leads to the stimulus-invariant spectro-temporal receptive field. The investigation of stimulus-invariance of the STRF for more general nonlinear systems and for stimulus ensembles which can be generated by nonlinear transformations of Gaussian noise involve the evaluation of higher order stimulus-response correlation functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vestibulocochlear Nerve / physiology*