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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Auditory Cortical Plasticity Dependent on Environmental Noise Statistics.

  • Author(s): Homma, Natsumi Y
  • Hullett, Patrick W
  • Atencio, Craig A
  • Schreiner, Christoph E
  • et al.

During critical periods, neural circuits develop to form receptive fields that adapt to the sensory environment and enable optimal performance of relevant tasks. We hypothesized that early exposure to background noise can improve signal-in-noise processing, and the resulting receptive field plasticity in the primary auditory cortex can reveal functional principles guiding that important task. We raised rat pups in different spectro-temporal noise statistics during their auditory critical period. As adults, they showed enhanced behavioral performance in detecting vocalizations in noise. Concomitantly, encoding of vocalizations in noise in the primary auditory cortex improves with noise-rearing. Significantly, spectro-temporal modulation plasticity shifts cortical preferences away from the exposed noise statistics, thus reducing noise interference with the foreground sound representation. Auditory cortical plasticity shapes receptive field preferences to optimally extract foreground information in noisy environments during noise-rearing. Early noise exposure induces cortical circuits to implement efficient coding in the joint spectral and temporal modulation domain.

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