Stimulus-specific adaptation and deviance detection in the rat auditory cortex

Nevo Taaseh, Amit Yaron, Israel Nelken*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Stimulus-specific adaptation (SSA) is the specific decrease in the response to a frequent (standard) stimulus, which does not generalize, or generalizes only partially, to another, rare stimulus (deviant). Stimulus-specific adaptation could result simply from the depression of the responses to the standard. Alternatively, there may be an increase in the responses to the deviant stimulus due to the violation of expectations set by the standard, indicating the presence of true deviance detection. We studied SSA in the auditory cortex of halothane-anesthetized rats, recording local field potentials and multi-unit activity. We tested the responses to pure tones of one frequency when embedded in sequences that differed from each other in the frequency and probability of the tones composing them. The responses to tones of the same frequency were larger when deviant than when standard, even with inter-stimulus time intervals of almost 2 seconds. Thus, SSA is present and strong in rat auditory cortex. SSA was present even when the frequency difference between deviants and standards was as small as 10%, substantially smaller than the typical width of cortical tuning curves, revealing hyper-resolution in frequency. Strong responses were evoked also by a rare tone presented by itself, and by rare tones presented as part of a sequence of many widely spaced frequencies. On the other hand, when presented within a sequence of narrowly spaced frequencies, the responses to a tone, even when rare, were smaller. A model of SSA that included only adaptation of the responses in narrow frequency channels predicted responses to the deviants that were substantially smaller than the observed ones. Thus, the response to a deviant is at least partially due to the change it represents relative to the regularity set by the standard tone, indicating the presence of true deviance detection in rat auditory cortex.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere23369
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2011


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