Population responses to multifrequency sounds in the cat auditory cortex: Four-tone complexes

I. Nelken*, Y. Prut, E. Vaddia, M. Abeles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Population responses to two-tone and four-tone sounds were recorded in primary auditory cortex of anesthetized cats. The stimuli were delivered through a sealed, calibrated sound delivery system. The envelope of the neural signal (short time mean absolute value, MABS) was recorded extracellularly from six microelectrodes simultaneously. A new method was developed to describe the responses to the four-tone complexes. The responses were represented as sums of contributions of different orders. The first order contributions described the effect of the single frequencies appearing in the stimulus. The second order contributions described the modulatory effect of the pairs of frequencies. Higher order contributions could in principle be computed. This paper concentrates on the mean onset responses. The extent to which the first and second order contributions described the onset responses was assessed in two ways. First, the actual responses to two-tone stimuli were compared with those predicted using the contributions computed from the four-tone stimuli. Second, the residual variance in the responses, after the substraction of the first and second order contributions, was computed and compared with the variability in the responses to repetitions of the same stimulus. The first type of analysis showed good quantitative agreement between the predicted and the measured two-tone responses. The second type of analysis showed that the first and second order contributions were often sufficient to predict the responses to four-tone stimuli up to the level of the variability in the responses to repetitions of a single stimulus. In conjunction with the results of the companion paper (Nelken et al., 1994a) it is concluded that the onset responses to multifrequency sounds are shaped mainly by the single frequency content of the sound and by two-tone interactions, and that higher order interactions contribute much less to the responses. It follows that single-tone effects and two-tone interactions are necessary and sufficient to explain the mean population onset responses to the four-tone stimuli. More information can be coded in the temporal evolution of the responses.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)223-236
Number of pages14
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Ed Stern for his help during the experiments. Long discussions with Dr. Ad Aertsen and his comments on a previous version of the manuscript, together with the comments of Dr. Eric Young, were invaluable in improving the text. This research was supported in part by grants from the basic research fund administered by the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities.


  • Cat
  • Complex Sounds
  • Non-linear modeling
  • Primary Auditory Cortex


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