Population responses to multifrequency sounds in the cat auditory cortex: One- and two-parameter families of sounds

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Population responses to multi-frequency sounds were recorded in primary auditory cortex of anesthetized cats. The sounds consisted of single-tone stimuli; two-tone stimuli; and nine-tone stimuli, with the tones evenly spaced on a linear frequency scale. The stimuli were presented through a sealed, calibrated sound delivery system. Single units, cluster activity (CA) and the short-time mean absolute value of the envelope of the neural signal (MABS) were recorded extracellularly from six microelectrodes simultaneously. The CA and MABS were interpreted as measures of the activity of large populations of neurons, in contrast with the single unit activity which is presumably recorded from single neurons. The responses of the MABS signal to simple stimuli were generally similar to those of the CA, but were more stable statistically. Thus, the MABS is better suited for studying the activity of populations of neurons. The responses to tones near the best frequency were strongly influenced by a second tone, even when the second tone was outside the single-tone response area. These influences could be both facilitatory and suppressory. They could not be predicted from the responses to single tones. The responses to the nine-tone stimuli could be explained qualitatively by the responses to the two-tone stimuli. It is concluded that the population responses in primary auditory cortex are shaped by the contributions of the individual frequencies appearing in the stimulus and by the interactions between pairs of frequencies. Interactions between stimulus components are therefore a necessary component of any attempt to explain the processing of complex sounds in the auditory cortex. They may play a role in a global representation of the stimulus spectrum in the primary auditory cortex. The presence of higher-order interactions cannot be excluded by the results presented here.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)206-222
Number of pages17
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Ed Stern for his help during the experiments. The comments of Dr. Eric Young and Dr. Ad Aertsen were invaluable in improving the manuscript. 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
  • Primary auditory cortex
  • Two-tone facilitation


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