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A novel coding mechanism for social vocalizations in the lateral amygdala.

Authors
  • Gadziola, Marie A
  • Grimsley, Jasmine M S
  • Shanbhag, Sharad J
  • Wenstrup, Jeffrey J
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Neurophysiology
Publisher
American Physiological Society
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2012
Volume
107
Issue
4
Pages
1047–1057
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1152/jn.00422.2011
PMID: 22090463
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

The amygdala plays a central role in evaluating the significance of acoustic signals and coordinating the appropriate behavioral responses. To understand how amygdalar responses modulate auditory processing and drive emotional expression, we assessed how neurons respond to and encode information that is carried within complex acoustic stimuli. We characterized responses of single neurons in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala to social vocalizations and synthetic acoustic stimuli in awake big brown bats. Neurons typically responded to most of the social vocalizations presented (mean = nine of 11 vocalizations) but differentially modulated both firing rate and response duration. Surprisingly, response duration provided substantially more information about vocalizations than did spike rate. In most neurons, variation in response duration depended, in part, on persistent excitatory discharge that extended beyond stimulus duration. Information in persistent firing duration was significantly greater than in spike rate, and the majority of neurons displayed more information in persistent firing, which was more likely to be observed in response to aggressive vocalizations (64%) than appeasement vocalizations (25%), suggesting that persistent firing may relate to the behavioral context of vocalizations. These findings suggest that the amygdala uses a novel coding strategy for discriminating among vocalizations and underscore the importance of persistent firing in the general functioning of the amygdala.

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