Acoustic factors govern developmental sharpening of spatial tuning in the auditory cortex.
Mrsic-Flogel TD., Schnupp JWH., King AJ.
Auditory localization relies on the detection and interpretation of acoustic cues that change in value as the head and external ears grow. Here we show that the maturation of these structures is an important determinant for the development of spatial selectivity in the ferret auditory cortex. Spatial response fields (SRFs) of high-frequency cortical neurons recorded at postnatal days (P) 33-39 were broader, and transmitted less information about stimulus direction, than in older ferrets. They also exhibited slightly broader frequency tuning than neurons recorded in adult animals. However, when infant neurons were stimulated through virtual ears of adults, SRFs sharpened significantly and the amount of transmitted information increased. This improvement was predicted by a model that generates SRF shape from the localization cue values and the neurons' binaural spectrotemporal response properties. The maturation of spatial response characteristics in auditory cortex therefore seems to be limited by peripheral rather than by central factors.