Responses of neurons in cat primary auditory cortex to bird chirps: Effects of temporal and spectral context

Omer Bar-Yosef, Yaron Rotman, Israel Nelken*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


The responses of neurons to natural sounds and simplified natural sounds were recorded in the primary auditory cortex (AI) of halothane-anesthetized cats, Bird chirps were used as the base natural stimuli. They were first presented within the original acoustic context (at least 250 msec of sounds before and after each chirp). The first simplification step consisted of extracting a short segment containing just the chirp from the longer segment. For the second step, the chirp was cleaned of its accompanying background noise. Finally, each chirp was replaced by an artificial version that had approximately the same frequency trajectory but with constant amplitude. Neurons had a wide range of different response patterns to these stimuli, and many neurons had late response components in addition, or instead of, their onset responses. In general, every simplification step had a substantial influence on the responses. Neither the extracted chirp nor the clean chirp evoked a similar response to the chirp presented within its acoustic context. The extracted chirp evoked different responses than its clean version. The artificial chirps evoked stronger responses with a shorter latency than the corresponding clean chirp because of envelope differences. These results illustrate the sensitivity of neurons in AI to small perturbations of their acoustic input. In particular, they pose a challenge to models based on linear summation of energy within a spectrotemporal receptive field.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)8619-8632
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2002


  • Auditory cortex
  • Bird chirps
  • Cats
  • Electrophysiology
  • Frequency-modulated tones
  • Natural sounds
  • Single neurons


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