During early brain development and through 'adult' experience-dependent plasticity, neural circuits are shaped to represent the external world with high fidelity. When raised in a quiet environment, the rat primary auditory cortex (A1) has a well-defined 'critical period', lasting several days, for its representation of sound frequency. The addition of environmental noise extends the critical period duration as a variable function of noise level. It remains unclear whether critical period closure should be regarded as a unified, externally gated event that applies for all of A1 or if it is controlled by progressive, local, activity-driven changes in this cortical area. We found that rearing rats in the presence of a spectrally limited noise band resulted in the closure of the critical period for A1 sectors representing the noise-free spectral bands, whereas the critical period appeared to remain open in noise-exposed sectors, where the cortex was still functionally and physically immature.
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We would like to thank T. Babcock, J. Zhang for technical support and J. Li for comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by US National Institutes of Health Grants grant NS-10414 and PO2 NS34835-09, the Sandler Fund and the Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec.
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de Villers-Sidani, E., Simpson, K., Lu, Y. et al. Manipulating critical period closure across different sectors of the primary auditory cortex. Nat Neurosci 11, 957–965 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2144
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