Auditory localization relies on the detection and interpretation of acoustic cues that change in value as the head and external ears grow. Here we show that the maturation of these structures is an important determinant for the development of spatial selectivity in the ferret auditory cortex. Spatial response fields (SRFs) of high-frequency cortical neurons recorded at postnatal days (P) 33–39 were broader, and transmitted less information about stimulus direction, than in older ferrets. They also exhibited slightly broader frequency tuning than neurons recorded in adult animals. However, when infant neurons were stimulated through virtual ears of adults, SRFs sharpened significantly and the amount of transmitted information increased. This improvement was predicted by a model that generates SRF shape from the localization cue values and the neurons' binaural spectrotemporal response properties. The maturation of spatial response characteristics in auditory cortex therefore seems to be limited by peripheral rather than by central factors.
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We are grateful to I. Thompson for critique of an earlier draft, and to I. Nelken for advice on information theory. Our research was sponsored by the Wellcome Trust (Senior Research Fellowship to A.J.K., Research Studentship to T.D.M.F.) and Defeating Deafness (Dunhill Medical Research Trust Research Fellowship to J.W.H.S.).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Mrsic-Flogel, T., Schnupp, J. & King, A. Acoustic factors govern developmental sharpening of spatial tuning in the auditory cortex. Nat Neurosci 6, 981–988 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1108
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