Auditory perceptual learning of pure tones causes tonotopic map expansion in the primary auditory cortex (A1), but the function this plasticity sub-serves is unclear. We developed an automated training platform called the "Educage", which was used to train mice on a go/no-go auditory discrimination task to their perceptual limits, for difficult discriminations among pure tones or natural sounds. Spiking responses of excitatory and inhibitory L2/3 neurons in mouse A1 revealed learning-induced overrepresentation of the learned frequencies, in accordance with previous literature. Using a novel computational model to study auditory tuning curves we show that overrepresentation does not necessarily improve discrimination performance of the network to the learned tones. In contrast, perceptual learning of natural sounds induced "sparsening" and decorrelation of the neural response, and consequently improving discrimination of these complex sounds. The signature of plasticity in A1 highlights its central role in coding natural sounds as compared to pure tones.
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