Journal of Neurophysiology

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Functional topography of cat primary auditory cortex: distribution of integrated excitation

C. E. Schreiner, J. R. Mendelson


1. Neuronal responses to tones and transient stimuli were mapped with microelectrodes in the primary auditory cortex (AI) of barbiturate anesthetized cats. Most of the dorsoventral extent of AI was mapped with multiple-unit recordings in the high-frequency domain (between 5.8 and 26.3 kHz) of all six studied cases. The spatial distributions of 1) sharpness of tuning measured with pure tones and 2) response magnitudes to a broadband transient were determined in each of three intensively studied cases. 2. The sharpness of tuning of integrated cluster responses was defined 10 dB above threshold (Q10 dB, integrated excitatory bandwidth). The spatial reconstructions revealed a frequency-independent maximum located near the center of the dorsoventral extent of AI. The sharpness of tuning gradually decreased toward the dorsal and ventral border of AI in all three cases. 3. The sharpness of tuning 40 dB above response threshold was also analyzed (Q40 dB). The Q40 dB values were less than one-half of the corresponding Q10 dB value. The spatial distribution showed a maximum in the center of AI, similar to the Q10 dB distribution. In two out of three cases, restricted additional maxima were recorded dorsal to the main maximum. Overall, Q10 dB and Q40 dB were only moderately correlated, indicating that the integrated excitatory bandwidth at higher stimulus levels can be influenced by additional mechanisms that are not active at lower levels. 4. The magnitude of excitatory responses to a broadband transient (frequency-step response) was determined. The normalized response magnitude varied between less than 1% and up to 100% relative to a characteristic frequency (CF) tone response. The step-response magnitude showed a systematic spatial distribution. An area dorsal to the Q10 dB maximum consistently showed the largest response magnitude surrounded by areas of lower responsivity. A second spatially more restricted maximum was recorded in the ventral-third of each map. Areas with high-transient responsiveness coincided with areas of broad integrated excitatory bandwidth at comparable stimulus levels. 5. The distribution of excitation produced by narrowband and broadband signals suggest that there exists a clear functional organization in the isofrequency domain of AI that is orthogonal to the main cochleotopic organization of the AI. Systematic spatial variations of the integrated excitatory bandwidth reflect underlying cortical processing capacities that may contribute to a parallel analysis of spectral complexity, e.g., spectral shape and contrast, at any given frequency.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)