Intracellular correlates of stimulus-specific adaptation

Stimulus-specific adaptation (SSA) is the reduction in response to a common stimulus that does not generalize, or only partially generalizes, to rare stimuli. SSA is strong and widespread in primary auditory cortex (A1) of rats, but is weak or absent in the main input station to A1, the ventral division of the medial geniculate body. To study SSA in A1, we recorded neural activity in A1 intracellularly using sharp electrodes. We studied the responses to tone pips of the same frequency in different contexts: as Standard and Deviants in Oddball sequences; in equiprobable sequences; in sequences consisting of rare tone presentations; and in sequences composed of many different frequencies, each of which was rare. SSA was found both in subthreshold membrane potential fluctuations and in spiking responses of A1 neurons. SSA for changes in frequency was large at a frequency difference of 44% between Standard and Deviant, and clearly present with tones separated by as little as 4%, near the behavioral frequency difference limen in rats. When using equivalent measures, SSA in spiking responses was generally larger than the SSA at the level of the membrane potential. This effect can be traced to the nonlinearity of the transformation between membrane potential to spikes. Using the responses to the same tone in different contexts made it possible to demonstrate that cortical SSA could not be fully explained by adaptation in narrow frequency channels, even at the level of the membrane potential. We conclude that local processing significantly contributes to the generation of cortical SSA.

Authors: Itai Hershenhoren, Nevo Taaseh, Flora M. Antunes and Israel Nelken
Year of publication: 2014
Journal: Journal of Neuroscience 26 February 2014, 34 (9) 3303-3319.

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