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Role of the zebra finch auditory thalamus in generating complex representations for natural sounds

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Amin, N., Gill, P., & Theunissen, F. E. (2010). Role of the zebra finch auditory thalamus in generating complex representations for natural sounds. Journal of Neurophysiology, 104(2), 784-798. doi:10.1152/jn.00128.2010.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-4CD4-8
Abstract
We estimated the spectrotemporal receptive fields of neurons in the songbird auditory thalamus, nucleus ovoidalis, and compared the neural representation of complex sounds in the auditory thalamus to those found in the upstream auditory midbrain nucleus, mesencephalicus lateralis dorsalis (MLd), and the downstream auditory pallial region, field L. Our data refute the idea that the primary sensory thalamus acts as a simple, relay nucleus: we find that the auditory thalamic receptive fields obtained in response to song are more complex than the ones found in the midbrain. Moreover, we find that linear tuning diversity and complexity in ovoidalis (Ov) are closer to those found in field L than in MLd. We also find prevalent tuning to intermediate spectral and temporal modulations, a feature that is unique to Ov. Thus even a feed-forward model of the sensory processing chain, where neural responses in the sensory thalamus reveals intermediate response properties between those in the sensory periphery and those in the primary sensory cortex, is inadequate in describing the tuning found in Ov. Based on these results, we believe that the auditory thalamic circuitry plays an important role in generating novel complex representations for specific features found in natural sounds.