, Volume 153, Issue 4, pp 614-627
Date: 25 Oct 2003

Single-unit responses in the auditory cortex of monkeys performing a conditional acousticomotor task

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The general goal of the present study was to assess the response properties to tones of single neurons in the auditory cortex (primary auditory area, A1, and middle lateral auditory belt, ML) of two macaque monkeys while performing an acousticomotor discrimination task requiring a controlled level of attention and motivation. For each neuron, an approximation of the frequency receptive field (FRF) was first established. Second, based on the FRF, sets of paired tone frequencies were defined in which two different tone frequencies had to be associated by the monkey, following a trial and error strategy, to a left or a right key-press with the left arm. After acquisition of the association, the two tones of the pair were presented randomly (“instruction stimulus”) and, if the monkey touched the correct key, the stimulus was repeated (“confirmation stimulus”) and a reward was delivered. The majority of units (63%) had a FRF formed by multiple peaks, whereas 25% and 12% of units exhibited a simple U-shaped FRF and a “mosaic” FRF, composed of several separated zones of response, respectively. Five principal response patterns were observed: On, Off, On-Off, Sustained, and Inhibition. In relation to the acousticomotor association task, some auditory cortical neurons (33%) exhibited a different response to the same stimulus when presented, in the same trials, as instruction or as confirmation. It was also observed that the response to the same instruction stimulus could differ when comparing correct trials with erroneous trials (wrong motor response). In conclusion, the response properties of auditory cortical neurons in behaving monkeys are strongly dependent on the physical parameters of sounds (frequency, intensity, etc.) as indicated by FRF characteristics, but a substantial influence of the behavioral context and performance may also play an important role.