RAPID ADAPTIVE PLASTICITY IN AUDITORY CORTEX
Shamma, Shihab A
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Navigating the acoustic environment entails actively listening for different sound sources, extracting signal from a background of noise, identifying the salient features of a signal and determining what parts of it are relevant. Humans and animals in natural environments perform such acoustic tasks routinely, and have to adapt to changes in the environment and features of the acoustic signals surrounding them in real time. Rapid plasticity has been reported to be a possible mechanism underling the ability to perform these tasks. Previous studies report that neurons in primary auditory cortex (A1) undergo changes in spectro-temporal tuning that enhance the discriminability between different sound classes, modulating their tuning to enhance the task relevant feature. This thesis investigates rapid task related plasticity in two distinct directions; first I investigate the effect of manipulating task difficulty on this type of plasticity. Second I expand the investigation of rapid plasticity into higher order auditory areas. With increasing task difficulty, A1 neurons' response is altered to increasingly suppress the representation of the noise while enhancing the representation of the signal. Comparing adaptive plasticity in secondary auditory cortex (PEG) to A1, PEG neurons further enhance the discriminability of the sound classes by an even greater enhancement of the target response. Taken together these results indicate that adaptive neural plasticity is a plausible mechanism that underlies the performance of novel auditory behaviors in real time, and provide insights into the development of behaviorally significant representation of sound in auditory cortex.