, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 87-104

Thalamocortical transformation of responses to complex auditory stimuli

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Summary

In unanesthetized guinea pigs, thalamic (CGM), and cortical (auditory I) neurons were recorded simultaneously. Nine of 69 neuron pairs showed a positive cross-correlation of their spontaneous activities, with increased discharge probability of the cortical neuron beginning 2–5 ms after the discharge of the CGM-neuron. The individual neurons of such pairs had an identical CF and the same spectral responsiveness.

The responses of cortical neurons to pure tones were much more phasic than those of the corresponding CGM-neurons. Thalamic neurons could be driven up to much higher AM- and FM-modulation frequencies (100 Hz) than cortical neurons, which usually ceased to follow AM-frequencies above 20 Hz. Stronger or weaker suppression of tonic response components in cortical and thalamic neurons and the lower AM-range of cortical neurons is related to stronger or weaker intracortical and intrathalamic inhibition respectively. Response characteristics to FM-stimuli are similar to those of AM-stimuli.

All CGM and cortical neurons responded to a variety of natural calls of the same or of other species. Responses of CGM-cells represented more components of a call than cortical cells even if the two cells were synaptically connected. In cortical cells, repetitive elements of a call were not represented if the repetition rate was too high. High modulation frequencies within a call, such as those of the fundamental frequency, could still be separated in the response of some CGM-neurons, but never in those of cortical neurons. Both CGM and cortical cells responded essentially to transients (amplitude or frequency modulations) within a call, if spectral components of such elements were within the spectral sensitivity of the cell. Spectral components outside the spectral sensitivity range could result in suppression of spontaneous discharge rate. Responses of cortical and CGM-cells, and thus the representation of call elements by neuronal responses, varied with the intensity of a call. It is suggested that, at higher levels of the auditory system, essential information about the temporal features of complex sounds may be represented by neural responses to transients in various spectral regions.

This work was partially supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through the Sonderforschungsbereich 33