Receptive field plasticity in the auditory cortex during frequency discrimination training: selective retuning independent of task difficulty

Behav Neurosci. 1993 Feb;107(1):82-103. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.107.1.82.


Classical conditioning is known to induce frequency-specific receptive field (RF) plasticity in the auditory cortex (ACx). This study determined the effects of discrimination training on RFs at two levels of task difficulty. Single unit and cluster discharges were recorded in the ACx of adult guinea pigs trained in a tone-shock frequency discrimination paradigm (30 intermixed trials each of positive conditioned stimulus [CS+]-shock and negative CS [CS-] alone) with behavioral performance indexed by the cardiac deceleration conditioned response (CR). After training in an easy task in which subjects developed discriminative CRs, they were trained in a difficult task (reduced frequency distance between CS+ and CS-) in which they failed to discriminate. However, frequency-specific RF plasticity developed at both levels of task difficulty. Responses to the frequency of the CS+ were increased, whereas responses to other frequencies, including the CS- and the prepotent best frequency (BF) were reduced. In many cases, tuning was shifted such that the frequency of the CS+ became the new BF. The effects were present or stronger after a 1-hr retention interval. The role of RF plasticity in the ACx is discussed for behavioral performance and information storage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Loudness Perception / physiology
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology*