Sensitivity of neurons in cat primary auditory cortex to tones and frequency-modulated stimuli. I: Effects of variation of stimulus parameters

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In the primary auditory cortex (AI) of barbiturate-anesthetized cats multi-unit responses to tones and to frequency-modulated (FM) tonal stimuli were analyzed. Characteristic frequency (CF), sharpness of tuning, minimum threshold, and dynamic range of spike count - intensity functions were determined. Minimum threshold and dynamic range were positively correlated. The response functions to unidirectional FM sweeps of varying linear rate of change of frequency (RCF) that traversed the excitatory frequency response areas (FRAs) displayed a variety of shapes. Preferences for fast RCFs (> 1000 kHz/s) were most common. Best RCF was not correlated with measures of sharpness of tuning. Directional preference and sensitivity were quantified by a DS index which varied with RCF. About two-thirds of the multi-unit responses showed a preference for downward sweeps. Directional sensitivity was independent of CF and independent of best RCF. Measurements of latencies of phasic responses to unidirectional FM sweeps of different RCF demonstrated that the discharges of a given multi-unit over its effective RCF range were initiated at the same instantaneous frequency (effective Fi), independent of RCF. Effective FiS fell within the excitatory FRA of a given multi-unit. The relationships of effective FiS to CF show that responses were evoked only when the frequency of the signal was modulated towards CF and not when modulated away from it, and that responses were initiated before the modulation reached CF. Changes in the range and depth of modulation had only minor, if any, effects on RCF response characteristics, FM directional sensitivity, and effective FiS, as long as the beginning and ending frequencies of FM sweeps fell outside a multi-unit's FRA. Stimulus intensity also had only moderate effects on RCF response characteristics and DS. However, effective FiS were influenced in systematic fashions: with increases in intensity, effective FiS to upward and downward sweeps decreased and increased, respectively. Thus, for higher intensities FM responses were initiated at instantaneous frequencies occuring earlier in the signal. The results are compared with previous data on tone and FM sensitivity of auditory neurons in cortical and subcortical structures, and mechanisms of FM rate and directional sensitivity are discussed. The topographic representations of these neuronal properties in AI are reported in the companion report.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-134
Number of pages27
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1992


  • Auditory cortex
  • FM directional sensitivity
  • FM rate sensitivity
  • Intensity
  • Spike timing

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