Journal of Neurophysiology

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Monaural inhibition in cat auditory cortex

M. B. Calford, M. N. Semple


1. Several studies of auditory cortex have examined the competitive inhibition that can occur when appropriate sounds are presented to each ear. However, most cortical neurons also show both excitation and inhibition in response to presentation of stimuli at one ear alone. The extent of such inhibition has not been described. Forward masking, in which a variable masking stimulus was followed by a fixed probe stimulus (within the excitatory response area), was used to examine the extent of monaural inhibition for neurons in primary auditory cortex of anesthetized cats (barbiturate or barbiturate-ketamine). Both the masking and probe stimuli were 50-ms tone pips presented to the contralateral ear. Most cortical neurons showed significant forward masking at delays beyond which masking effects in the auditory nerve are relatively small compared with those seen in cortical neurons. Analysis was primarily concerned with such components. Standard rate-level functions were also obtained and were examined for nonmonotonicity, an indication of level-dependent monaural inhibition. 2. Consistent with previous reports, a wide range of frequency tuning properties (excitatory response area shapes) was found in cortical neurons. This was matched by a wide range of forward-masking-derived inhibitory response areas. At the most basic level of analysis, these were classified according to the presence of lateral inhibition, i.e., where a probe tone at a neuron's characteristic frequency was masked by tones outside the limits of the excitatory response area. Lateral inhibition was a property of 38% of the sampled neurons. Such neurons represented 77% of those with nonmonotonic rate-level functions, indicating a strong correlation between the two indexes of monaural inhibition; however, the shapes of forward masking inhibitory response areas did not usually correspond with those required to account for the "tuning" of a neuron. In addition, it was found that level-dependent inhibition was not added to by forward masking inhibition. 3. Analysis of the discharges to individual stimulus pair presentations, under conditions of partial masking, revealed that discharges to the probe occurred independently of discharges to the preceding masker. This indicates that even when the masker is within a neuron's excitatory response area, forward masking is not a postdischarge habituation phenomenon. However, for most neurons the degree of masking summed over multiple stimulus presentations appears determined by the same stimulus parameters that determine the probability of response to the masker.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)