The Temporal Association Cortex Plays a Key Role in Auditory-Driven Maternal Plasticity

Mother-infant bonding develops rapidly following parturition and is accompanied by changes in sensory perception and behavior. Here, we study how ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) are represented in the brain of mothers. Using a mouse line that allows temporally controlled genetic access to active neurons, we find that the temporal association cortex (TeA) in mothers exhibits robust USV responses. Rabies tracing from USV-responsive neurons reveals extensive subcortical and cortical inputs into TeA. A particularly dominant cortical source of inputs is the primary auditory cortex (A1), suggesting strong A1-to-TeA connectivity. Chemogenetic silencing of USV-responsive neurons in TeA impairs auditory-driven maternal preference in a pup-retrieval assay. Furthermore, dense extracellular recordings from awake mice reveal changes of both single-neuron and population responses to USVs in TeA, improving discriminability of pup calls in mothers compared with naive females. These data indicate that TeA plays a key role in encoding and perceiving pup cries during motherhood.

Authors: Gen-ichi Tasaka, Libi Feigin, Ido Maor, Maya Groysman, Laura A. DeNardo, Jennifer K. Schiavo, Robert C. Froemke, Liqun Luo, Adi Mizrahi
Year of publication: 2020
Journal: Neuron ISSN 0896-6273

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