To map the encoding of auditory cues in songbirds, multiunit electrophysiological responses to pure tone stimuli (250-5000 Hz) were recorded at 373 sites throughout the avian analogue of the mammalian auditory cortex in the caudal telencephalon of awake, restrained canaries. We found that a dorso-ventral tonotopic gradient from low to high frequency stimuli extends from the rostral field L2 to caudal-most caudo-medial nidopallium (NCM), similar to the frequency-dependent patterns of ZENK gene expression in canary NCM and to electrophysiological responses in other songbird species. However, response characteristics differ across the region. In field L2, responses are vigorous, phasic, and do not habituate to repeated presentations of the same stimulus. In an important subset of field L2 sites, tuning width narrows over the course of the response, which then terminates rapidly at stimulus offset. These properties are associated with inhibition at many nonpreferred frequencies and poststimulus inhibition at responsive frequencies. In contrast, NCM sites habituate to repeated sine waves, have wider tuning and lower amplitude responses, and rarely show inhibitory effects. Tuning curves in NCM are also flatter than those of field L2, and are often multi-peaked. In addition, tuning width increases as the response unfolds and poststimulus excitation is often sustained in NCM. In sum, specific parts of the canary caudo-medial telencephalon differ in their response properties, suggesting differential roles in auditory processing. NCM properties, in particular, may allow for response integration across multiple spectrally varying stimulus elements, such as those that occur during birdsong.
- Field L
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience