Studies of cortical connections or neuronal function in different cerebral areas support the hypothesis that parallel cortical processing streams, similar to those identified in visual cortex, may exist in the auditory system. However, this model has not yet been behaviorally tested. We used reversible cooling deactivation to investigate whether the individual regions in cat nonprimary auditory cortex that are responsible for processing the pattern of an acoustic stimulus or localizing a sound in space could be doubly dissociated in the same animal. We found that bilateral deactivation of the posterior auditory field resulted in deficits in a sound-localization task, whereas bilateral deactivation of the anterior auditory field resulted in deficits in a pattern-discrimination task, but not vice versa. These findings support a model of cortical organization that proposes that identifying an acoustic stimulus ('what') and its spatial location ('where') are processed in separate streams in auditory cortex.
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We thank A.J. Hall for assistance with training and testing the cats, E.M. Woller and A.J. Hall for assistance with preparing the figures and J.G. Mellott for assistance with the tissue processing. We are grateful to M. Mishkin and M. Goodale for very helpful suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada and The Hearing Foundation of Canada. S.M. was supported by a Predoctoral Training Award from the US National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
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