Distributed coding of sound locations in the auditory cortex
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- Stecker, G. & Middlebrooks, J. Biol. Cybern. (2003) 89: 341. doi:10.1007/s00422-003-0439-1
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Although the auditory cortex plays an important role in sound localization, that role is not well understood. In this paper, we examine the nature of spatial representation within the auditory cortex, focusing on three questions. First, are sound-source locations encoded by individual sharply tuned neurons or by activity distributed across larger neuronal populations? Second, do temporal features of neural responses carry information about sound-source location? Third, are any fields of the auditory cortex specialized for spatial processing? We present a brief review of recent work relevant to these questions along with the results of our investigations of spatial sensitivity in cat auditory cortex. Together, they strongly suggest that space is represented in a distributed manner, that response timing (notably first-spike latency) is a critical information-bearing feature of cortical responses, and that neurons in various cortical fields differ in both their degree of spatial sensitivity and their manner of spatial coding. The posterior auditory field (PAF), in particular, is well suited for the distributed coding of space and encodes sound-source locations partly by modulations of response latency. Studies of neurons recorded simultaneously from PAF and/or A1 reveal that spatial information can be decoded from the relative spike times of pairs of neurons – particularly when responses are compared between the two fields – thus partially compensating for the absence of an absolute reference to stimulus onset.