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Age-Related Changes in Temporal Processing of Rapidly-Presented Sound Sequences in the Macaque Auditory Cortex.


The mammalian auditory cortex is necessary to resolve temporal features in rapidly-changing sound streams. This capability is crucial for speech comprehension in humans and declines with normal aging. Nonhuman primate studies have revealed detrimental effects of normal aging on the auditory nervous system, and yet the underlying influence on temporal processing remains less well-defined. Therefore, we recorded from the core and lateral belt areas of auditory cortex when awake young and old monkeys listened to tone-pip and noise-burst sound sequences. Elevated spontaneous and stimulus-driven activity were the hallmark characteristics in old monkeys. These old neurons showed isomorphic-like discharge patterns to stimulus envelopes, though their phase-locking was less precise. Functional preference in temporal coding between the core and belt existed in the young monkeys but was mostly absent in the old monkeys, in which old belt neurons showed core-like response profiles. Finally, the analysis of population activity patterns indicated that the aged auditory cortex demonstrated a homogenous, distributed coding strategy, compared to the selective, sparse coding strategy observed in the young monkeys. Degraded temporal fidelity and highly-responsive, broadly-tuned cortical responses could underlie how aged humans have difficulties to resolve and track dynamic sounds leading to speech processing deficits.

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