Journal of Neurophysiology

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Processing of frequency-modulated sounds in the cat's anterior auditory field

B. Tian, J. P. Rauschecker


1. Single-neuron activity was recorded from the anterior auditory field (AAF) in the cortex of gas-anesthetized cats. 2. Tone bursts and broad-band complex sounds were used for auditory stimulation. Responses to frequency-modulated (FM) sounds, in particular, were studied systematically. 3. Linear FM sweeps were centered around the best frequency (BF) of a neuron and had an excursion large enough to cover its whole frequency tuning range. Rate and direction of change of the FM sweeps were varied. 4. In 69% of the FM responses, a peak was found at an instantaneous frequency that corresponded to the BF in the pure-tone response. Thirty-three percent of the units had multiple maxima in their FM response. These secondary maxima were not always reflected in the pure-tone response of the same neurons. 5. The vast majority of AAF neurons showed one of two types of selectivity for FM rate. Depending on the criterion, almost half of the cells (46%) preferred fast changes of > 200 Hz/ms (high-pass) in both FM directions. Forty-eight percent of all neurons showed band-pass behavior with a clear preference in the middle range of FM rates in one or both directions. Low-pass or all-pass neurons made up only a small proportion (4 and 1%, respectively) of AAF neurons. 6. When both directions of an FM sweep (low-to-high and high-to-low-frequency) were tested, 66% of the neurons clearly were selective for one direction. This selectivity was not present necessarily at the preferred FM rate. In general, FM direction selectivity was most pronounced at slower FM rates. 7. The selectivity of AAF neurons for the rate and direction of FM sounds makes these neurons suitable for the detection and analysis of communication sounds, which often contain FM components with a particular sweep rate and direction.