Diversity in Excitation-Inhibition Mismatch Underlies Local Functional Heterogeneity in the Rat Auditory Cortex.
ABSTRACT: Cortical neurons are heterogeneous in their functional properties. This heterogeneity is fundamental for the processing of different features of sensory information. However, functional diversity within a local group of neurons is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that neighboring cortical neurons in layer 5 but not those of layer 4 of the rat anterior auditory field (AAF) exhibited a surprisingly high level of diversity in tonal receptive fields. In vivo whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings revealed that the diversity of frequency representation was due to a spectral mismatch between synaptic excitation and inhibition to varying degrees. The spectral distribution of excitation was skewed at different levels, whereas inhibition was homogeneous and non-skewed, similar to the summed spiking activity of local neuronal ensembles, which further enhanced diversity. Our results indicate that AAF in the auditory cortex is involved in processing auditory information in a highly refined manner that is important for complex pattern recognition.
Project description:A canonical feedforward circuit is proposed to underlie sensory cortical responses with balanced excitation and inhibition in layer 4 (L4). However, in another input layer, L6, sensory responses and the underlying synaptic circuits remain largely unclear. Here, cell-attached recordings in rat primary auditory cortex revealed that for the majority of L6 excitatory neurons, tonal stimuli did not drive spike responses, but suppressed spontaneous firings. Whole-cell recordings further revealed that the silencing resulted from tone-evoked strong inhibition arriving earlier than excitation. This pattern of inputs can be attributed to a parallel feedforward circuit with both excitatory and inhibitory inputs disynaptically relayed. In contrast, in the other neurons directly driven by thalamic input, stimuli evoked excitation preceding relatively weak inhibition, resulting in robust spike responses. Thus, the dichotomy of L6 response properties arises from two distinct patterns of excitatory-inhibitory interplay. The parallel circuit module generating preceding inhibition may provide a gating mechanism for conditional corticothalamic feedback.
Project description:Neurons in the primary auditory cortex (AI) encode complex features of the spectral content of sound, such as direction selectivity. Recent findings of temporal symmetry in AI predict a specific organization of the subcortical input into the cortex that contributes to the emergence of direction selectivity. We demonstrate two subpopulations of neurons in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus, which differ in their steady-state temporal response profile: lagged and non-lagged. The lagged cells (23%) are shifted in temporal phase with respect to non-lagged cells, and are characterized by an 'inhibition first' and delayed excitation in their spectro-temporal receptive fields. Non-lagged cells (77%) have a canonical 'excitation first' response. However, we find no difference in the response onset latency to pure tone stimuli between the two subpopulations. Given the homogeneity of tonal response latency, we predict that these lagged cells receive inhibitory input mediated by cortical feedback projections.
Project description:Functional receptive fields of neurons in sensory cortices undergo progressive refinement during development. Such refinement may be attributed to the pruning of non-optimal excitatory inputs, reshaping of the excitatory tuning profile through modifying the strengths of individual inputs, or strengthening of cortical inhibition. These models have not been directly tested because of the technical difficulties in assaying the spatiotemporal patterns of functional synaptic inputs during development. Here we apply in vivo whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings to the recipient layer 4 neurons in the rat primary auditory cortex (A1) to determine the developmental changes in the frequency-intensity tonal receptive fields (TRFs) of their excitatory and inhibitory inputs. Surprisingly, we observe co-tuned excitation and inhibition immediately after the onset of hearing, suggesting that a tripartite thalamocortical circuit with relatively strong feedforward inhibition is formed independently of auditory experience. The frequency ranges of tone-driven excitatory and inhibitory inputs first expand within a few days of the onset of hearing and then persist into adulthood. The latter phase is accompanied by a sharpening of the excitatory but not inhibitory frequency tuning profile, which results in relatively broader inhibitory tuning in adult A1 neurons. Thus the development of cortical synaptic TRFs after the onset of hearing is marked by a slight breakdown of previously formed excitation-inhibition balance. Our results suggest that functional refinement of cortical TRFs does not require a selective pruning of inputs, but may depend more on a fine adjustment of excitatory input strengths.
Project description:In the rodent auditory system, the primary cortex is subdivided into two regions, both receiving direct inputs from the auditory thalamus: the primary auditory cortex (A1) and the anterior auditory field (AAF). Although neurons in the two regions display different response properties, like response latency, firing threshold or tuning bandwidth, it is still not clear whether they process sound in a distinct way. Using in vivo electrophysiological recordings in the mouse auditory cortex, we found that AAF neurons have significantly stronger responses to tone offset than A1 neurons. AAF neurons also display faster and more transient responses than A1 neurons. Additionally, offset responses in AAF - unlike in A1, increase with sound duration. Local field potential (LFP) and laminar analyses suggest that the differences in sound responses between these two primary cortices are both of subcortical and intracortical origin. These results emphasize the potentially critical role of AAF for temporal processing. Our study reveals a distinct role of two primary auditory cortices in tone processing and highlights the complexity of sound encoding at the cortical level.
Project description:A central goal in auditory neuroscience is to understand the neural coding of species-specific communication and human speech sounds. Low-rate repetitive sounds are elemental features of communication sounds, and core auditory cortical regions have been implicated in processing these information-bearing elements. Repetitive sounds could be encoded by at least three neural response properties: 1) the event-locked spike-timing precision, 2) the mean firing rate, and 3) the interspike interval (ISI). To determine how well these response aspects capture information about the repetition rate stimulus, we measured local group responses of cortical neurons in cat anterior auditory field (AAF) to click trains and calculated their mutual information based on these different codes. ISIs of the multiunit responses carried substantially higher information about low repetition rates than either spike-timing precision or firing rate. Combining firing rate and ISI codes was synergistic and captured modestly more repetition information. Spatial distribution analyses showed distinct local clustering properties for each encoding scheme for repetition information indicative of a place code. Diversity in local processing emphasis and distribution of different repetition rate codes across AAF may give rise to concurrent feed-forward processing streams that contribute differently to higher-order sound analysis.
Project description:Excitation is balanced by inhibition to cortical neurons across a wide range of conditions. To understand how this relationship is maintained, we broadly suppressed the activity of parvalbumin-expressing (PV+) inhibitory neurons and asked how this affected the balance of excitation and inhibition throughout auditory cortex. Activating archaerhodopsin in PV+ neurons effectively suppressed them in layer 4. However, the resulting increase in excitation outweighed Arch suppression and produced a net increase in PV+ activity in downstream layers. Consequently, suppressing PV+ neurons did not reduce inhibition to principal neurons (PNs) but instead resulted in a tightly coordinated increase in both excitation and inhibition. The increase in inhibition constrained the magnitude of PN spiking responses to the increase in excitation and produced nonlinear changes in spike tuning. Excitatory-inhibitory rebalancing is mediated by strong PN-PV+ connectivity within and between layers and is likely engaged during normal cortical operation to ensure balance in downstream neurons.
Project description:Cortical inhibition plays an important role in shaping neuronal processing. The underlying synaptic mechanisms remain controversial. Here, in vivo whole-cell recordings from neurons in the rat primary auditory cortex revealed that the frequency tuning curve of inhibitory input was broader than that of excitatory input. This results in relatively stronger inhibition in frequency domains flanking the preferred frequencies of the cell and a significant sharpening of the frequency tuning of membrane responses. The less selective inhibition can be attributed to a broader bandwidth and lower threshold of spike tonal receptive field of fast-spike inhibitory neurons than nearby excitatory neurons, although both types of neurons receive similar ranges of excitatory input and are organized into the same tonotopic map. Thus, the balance between excitation and inhibition is only approximate, and intracortical inhibition with high sensitivity and low selectivity can laterally sharpen the frequency tuning of neurons, ensuring their highly selective representation.
Project description:The primary auditory cortex processes acoustic sequences for the perception of behaviorally meaningful sounds such as speech. Sound information arrives at its input layer four from where activity propagates to associative layer 2/3. It is currently not known whether there is a characteristic organization of neuronal population activity across layers and sound levels during sound processing. Here, we identify neuronal avalanches, which in theory and experiments have been shown to maximize dynamic range and optimize information transfer within and across networks, in primary auditory cortex. We used in vivo 2-photon imaging of pyramidal neurons in cortical layers L4 and L2/3 of mouse A1 to characterize the populations of neurons that were active spontaneously, i.e., in the absence of a sound stimulus, and those recruited by single-frequency tonal stimuli at different sound levels. Single-frequency sounds recruited neurons of widely ranging frequency selectivity in both layers. We defined neuronal ensembles as neurons being active within or during successive temporal windows at the temporal resolution of our imaging. For both layers, neuronal ensembles were highly variable in size during spontaneous activity as well as during sound presentation. Ensemble sizes distributed according to power laws, the hallmark of neuronal avalanches, and were similar across sound levels. Avalanches activated by sound were composed of neurons with diverse tuning preference, yet with selectivity independent of avalanche size. Our results suggest that optimization principles identified for avalanches guide population activity in L4 and L2/3 of auditory cortex during and in-between stimulus processing.
Project description:Although temporal information processing is important in auditory perception, the mechanisms for coding tonal offsets are unknown. We investigated cortical responses elicited at the offset of tonal stimuli using flavoprotein fluorescence imaging in mice. Off-responses were clearly observed at the offset of tonal stimuli lasting for 7?s, but not after stimuli lasting for 1?s. Off-responses to the short stimuli appeared in a similar cortical region, when conditioning tonal stimuli lasting for 5-20?s preceded the stimuli. MK-801, an inhibitor of NMDA receptors, suppressed the two types of off-responses, suggesting that disinhibition produced by NMDA receptor-dependent synaptic depression might be involved in the off-responses. The peak off-responses were localized in a small region adjacent to the primary auditory cortex, and no frequency-dependent shift of the response peaks was found. Frequency matching of preceding tonal stimuli with short test stimuli was not required for inducing off-responses to short stimuli. Two-photon calcium imaging demonstrated significantly larger neuronal off-responses to stimuli lasting for 7?s in this field, compared with off-responses to stimuli lasting for 1?s. The present results indicate the presence of an auditory cortical field responding to long-lasting tonal offsets, possibly for temporal information processing.
Project description:The primary auditory cortex (A1) plays a key role for sound perception since it represents one of the first cortical processing stations for sounds. Recent studies have shown that on the cellular level the frequency organization of A1 is more heterogeneous than previously appreciated. However, many of these studies were performed in mice on the C57BL/6 background which develop high frequency hearing loss with age making them a less optimal choice for auditory research. In contrast, mice on the CBA background retain better hearing sensitivity in old age. Since potential strain differences could exist in A1 organization between strains, we performed comparative analysis of neuronal populations in A1 of adult (~?10 weeks) C57BL/6 mice and F1 (CBAxC57) mice. We used in vivo 2-photon imaging of pyramidal neurons in cortical layers L4 and L2/3 of awake mouse primary auditory cortex (A1) to characterize the populations of neurons that were active to tonal stimuli. Pure tones recruited neurons of widely ranging frequency preference in both layers and strains with neurons in F1 (CBAxC57) mice exhibiting a wider range of frequency preference particularly to higher frequencies. Frequency selectivity was slightly higher in C57BL/6 mice while neurons in F1 (CBAxC57) mice showed a greater sound-level sensitivity. The spatial heterogeneity of frequency preference was present in both strains with F1 (CBAxC57) mice exhibiting higher tuning diversity across all measured length scales. Our results demonstrate that the tone evoked responses and frequency representation in A1 of adult C57BL/6 and F1 (CBAxC57) mice are largely similar.