Journal of Neurophysiology

Acoustic response characteristics of neurons in nonspecific areas of cat cerebral cortex

D. R. Irvine, H. Huebner


1. Acoustic properties of single neurons in pericruciate, anterior lateral, and medial suprasylvian "association" areas were studied in chloralose-anesthetized cats using sealed stimulating systems incorporating probe microphone assemblies. 2. A total of 652 cells were isolated. Approximately 70% of the cells in each area were responsive to acoustic stimulation, and the majority of these cells were also driven by visual and/or somatosensory stimulation. 3. Association cortex neurons responded to tone- or noise-burst stimulation with an onset response of 16--50 ms latency. The onset response was found to be followed by a long period of suppression in those cases in which spontaneous activity was sufficiently high for this to be detected. 4. The majority of 56 units for which detailed frequency-tuning data were obtained had broad, irregular tuning curves extending over 5--6 octaves or more. A small proportion of association cortex cells exhibited sharp tuning comparable to that obtained in control recordings from cells in primary auditory cortex (AI). Although a number of broadly tuned units were rather insensitive, many cells--both broadly and sharply tuned--were of comparable sensitivity to AI cells. 5. Of the association cortex cells examined for binaural properties, 95% received excitatory input from each ear, and the dominant mode of binaural interaction in these cells was one of occlusion. The occurrence of occlusion at suprathreshold intensities reflected a tendency for monoaural and binaural intensity functions to asymptote at the same level. 6. The broad tuning, lability, and polysensory convergence exhibited by association cortex cells are similar to those of the so-called auditory lemniscal adjunct system. However, the binaural properties of association cells differ significantly from those of both the lemniscal line and adjuct components of the auditory pathway. 7. The homogeneity of acoustic and polysensory input to the three association fields is compatible with their input being derived from the single subcortical nonspecific projection system (reticular formation and medial/intralaminar thalamus) postulated by previous investigators. However, both neuroanatomical and neurophysiological evidence suggest that the lemniscal adjunct system and certain areas of periauditory cortex might also contribute to this input.