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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Neural mechanisms of interstimulus interval-dependent responses in the primary auditory cortex of awake cats

Masashi Sakai*, Sohei Chimoto, Ling Qin and Yu Sato

Author Affiliations

Department of Physiology, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering, University of Yamanashi, Yamanashi 409-3898, Japan

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BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-10

Published: 10 February 2009

Abstract

Background

Primary auditory cortex (AI) neurons show qualitatively distinct response features to successive acoustic signals depending on the inter-stimulus intervals (ISI). Such ISI-dependent AI responses are believed to underlie, at least partially, categorical perception of click trains (elemental vs. fused quality) and stop consonant-vowel syllables (eg.,/da/-/ta/continuum).

Methods

Single unit recordings were conducted on 116 AI neurons in awake cats. Rectangular clicks were presented either alone (single click paradigm) or in a train fashion with variable ISI (2–480 ms) (click-train paradigm). Response features of AI neurons were quantified as a function of ISI: one measure was related to the degree of stimulus locking (temporal modulation transfer function [tMTF]) and another measure was based on firing rate (rate modulation transfer function [rMTF]). An additional modeling study was performed to gain insight into neurophysiological bases of the observed responses.

Results

In the click-train paradigm, the majority of the AI neurons ("synchronization type"; n = 72) showed stimulus-locking responses at long ISIs. The shorter cutoff ISI for stimulus-locking responses was on average ~30 ms and was level tolerant in accordance with the perceptual boundary of click trains and of consonant-vowel syllables. The shape of tMTF of those neurons was either band-pass or low-pass. The single click paradigm revealed, at maximum, four response periods in the following order: 1st excitation, 1st suppression, 2nd excitation then 2nd suppression. The 1st excitation and 1st suppression was found exclusively in the synchronization type, implying that the temporal interplay between excitation and suppression underlies stimulus-locking responses. Among these neurons, those showing the 2nd suppression had band-pass tMTF whereas those with low-pass tMTF never showed the 2nd suppression, implying that tMTF shape is mediated through the 2nd suppression. The recovery time course of excitability suggested the involvement of short-term plasticity. The observed phenomena were well captured by a single cell model which incorporated AMPA, GABAA, NMDA and GABAB receptors as well as short-term plasticity of thalamocortical synaptic connections.

Conclusion

Overall, it was suggested that ISI-dependent responses of the majority of AI neurons are configured through the temporal interplay of excitation and suppression (inhibition) along with short-term plasticity.