Silencing cortical activity during sound-localization training impairs auditory perceptual learning.
Bajo VM., Nodal FR., Korn C., Constantinescu AO., Mann EO., Boyden ES., King AJ.
The brain has a remarkable capacity to adapt to changes in sensory inputs and to learn from experience. However, the neural circuits responsible for this flexible processing remain poorly understood. Using optogenetic silencing of ArchT-expressing neurons in adult ferrets, we show that within-trial activity in primary auditory cortex (A1) is required for training-dependent recovery in sound-localization accuracy following monaural deprivation. Because localization accuracy under normal-hearing conditions was unaffected, this highlights a specific role for cortical activity in learning. A1-dependent plasticity appears to leave a memory trace that can be retrieved, facilitating adaptation during a second period of monaural deprivation. However, in ferrets in which learning was initially disrupted by perturbing A1 activity, subsequent optogenetic suppression during training no longer affected localization accuracy when one ear was occluded. After the initial learning phase, the reweighting of spatial cues that primarily underpins this plasticity may therefore occur in A1 target neurons.