Topography of intensity tuning in cat primary auditory cortex: single-neuron versus multiple-neuron recordings

M. L. Sutter, C. E. Schreiner


1. We studied the spatial distributions of amplitude tuning (monotonicity of rate-level functions) and response threshold of single neurons along the dorsoventral extent of cat primary auditory cortex (AI). To pool data across animals, we used the multiple-unit map of monotonicity as a frame of reference. Amplitude selectivity of multiple units is known to vary systematically along isofrequency contours, which run roughly in the dorsoventral direction. Clusters sharply tuned for intensity (i.e., "nonmonotonic" clusters) are located near the center of the contour. A second nonmonotonic region can be found several millimeters dorsal to the center. We used the locations of these two nonmonotonic regions as reference points to normalize data across animals. Additionally, to compare this study to sharpness of frequency tuning results, we also used multiple-unit bandwidth (BW) maps as references to pool data. 2. The multiple-unit amplitude-related topographies recorded in previous studies were confirmed. Pooled multiple-unit maps closely approximated the previously reported individual case maps when the multiple-unit monotonicity or the map of bandwidth (in octaves) of pure tones to which a cell responds 40 dB above minimum threshold were used as the pooling reference. When the map of bandwidth (in octaves) of pure tones to which a cell responds 10 dB above minimum threshold map was used as part of the measure, the pooled spatial pattern of multiple-unit activity was degraded. 3. Single neurons exhibited nonmonotonic rate-level functions more frequently than multiple units. Although common in single-neuron recordings (28%), strongly nonmonotonic recordings (firing rates reduced by > 50% at high intensities) were uncommon (8%) in multiple-unit recordings. Intermediately nonmonotonic neurons (firing rates reduced between 20% and 50% at high intensities) occurred with nearly equal probability in single-neuron (28%) and multiple-unit (26%) recordings. The remaining recordings for multiple units (66%) and single units (44%) were monotonic (firing rates within 20% of the maximum at the highest tested intensity). 4. In ventral AI (AIv), the topography of monotonicity for single units was qualitatively similar to multiple units, although single units were on average more intensity selective. In dorsal AI (AId) we consistently found a spatial gradient for sharpness of intensity tuning for multiple units; however, for pooled single units in Aid there was no clear topographic gradient. 5. Response (intensity) thresholds of single neurons were not uniformly distributed across the dorsoventral extent of AI.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)