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Cortical representation of auditory space: information-bearing features of spike patterns.

Published Article
Journal of neurophysiology
Publication Date
PMID: 11929896


Previous studies have demonstrated that the spike patterns of cortical neurons vary systematically as a function of sound-source location such that the response of a single neuron can signal the location of a sound source throughout 360 degrees of azimuth. The present study examined specific features of spike patterns that might transmit information related to sound-source location. Analysis was based on responses of well-isolated single units recorded from cortical area A2 in alpha-chloralose-anesthetized cats. Stimuli were 80-ms noise bursts presented from loudspeakers in the horizontal plane; source azimuths ranged through 360 degrees in 20 degrees steps. Spike patterns were averaged across samples of eight trials. A competitive artificial neural network (ANN) identified sound-source locations by recognizing spike patterns; the ANN was trained using the learning vector quantization learning rule. The information about stimulus location that was transmitted by spike patterns was computed from joint stimulus-response probability matrices. Spike patterns were manipulated in various ways to isolate particular features. Full-spike patterns, which contained all spike-count information and spike timing with 100-micros precision, transmitted the most stimulus-related information. Transmitted information was sensitive to disruption of spike timing on a scale of more than approximately 4 ms and was reduced by an average of approximately 35% when spike-timing information was obliterated entirely. In a condition in which all but the first spike in each pattern were eliminated, transmitted information decreased by an average of only approximately 11%. In many cases, that condition showed essentially no loss of transmitted information. Three unidimensional features were extracted from spike patterns. Of those features, spike latency transmitted approximately 60% more information than that transmitted either by spike count or by a measure of latency dispersion. Information transmission by spike patterns recorded on single trials was substantially reduced compared with the information transmitted by averages of eight trials. In a comparison of averaged and nonaveraged responses, however, the information transmitted by latencies was reduced by only approximately 29%, whereas information transmitted by spike counts was reduced by 79%. Spike counts clearly are sensitive to sound-source location and could transmit information about sound-source locations. Nevertheless, the present results demonstrate that the timing of the first poststimulus spike carries a substantial amount, probably the majority, of the location-related information present in spike patterns. The results indicate that any complete model of the cortical representation of auditory space must incorporate the temporal characteristics of neuronal response patterns.


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