Stimulus-induced spike bursts in two fields of cat auditory cortex

D. P. Phillips, L. M. Kitzes, M. N. Semple, S. E. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sound-evoked responses of extracellularly recorded cat primary auditory cortical neurons usually consist of a single spike or a short-term burst of 2-4 spikes, irrespective of the nature of the acoustic signal. In the cat's auditory cortex, the properties of such responses have to date been described only for cells in the primary field (AI). The purpose of the present study was to describe the properties of stimulus-evoked spike burst responses seen in neurons of the posterior auditory field (P) and to compare those properties with those of a sample of AI neurons studied under similar conditions. The data come from 80 field P and 31 AI neurons studied with tonal and noise-burst stimuli in barbiturate-anesthetized cats, using calibrated, sealed stimulus delivery systems and conventional extracellular recording techniques. The mean inter-spike intervals (ISI) seen in the transient burst responses of posterior field cells were typically short (2-5 ms) and, where it was possible to test them, independent of the rise time of tonal signals, suggesting that they were also independent of the onset spectrum of the stimulus. The mean ISIs were often independent of the stimulus amplitude, even though the signal level had profound effects on the number of spikes evoked and the latency and regularity with which the responses were initiated. Each neuron was assigned a 'characteristic ISI', i.e., the mean ISI seen in the most vigorous responses. The distribution of characteristic ISis for AI and P neurons overlapped, but were significantly different, with the characteristic ISIs of field P neurons being longer. In both AI and P populations, characteristic ISI was significantly correlated with minimal first-spike latency. The slopes of the regression lines of characteristic ISI on minimal latency for AI and for P cells were not significantly different from each other. Since the minimal latencies of AI neurons were usually shorter than those of field P neurons, the shorter characteristic ISis of AI cells may thus be interpreted as secondary to their shorter latent periods. The general properties of stimulus-evoked spike bursts seen in field P neurons were thus very similar those previously described for AI cells. These data are consistent with the view that the majority of extracellular recordings in the cat's auditory cortex come from pyramidal neurons and are appropriate as a specialization for transfer of information to nonpyramidal, inhibitory interneurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-173
Number of pages9
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Aug 1996


  • Auditory cortex
  • Posterior field
  • Single neuron
  • Spike burst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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