From hearing to listening — the role of auditory cortex in making sense of sounds.
In this talk I will discuss two recent studies from our lab that have demonstrated that neural activity in auditory cortex does not merely reflect sound acoustics. In the first study, we sought to determine the co-ordinate frame in which spatial tuning exists in auditory cortex by recording from the auditory cortex of freely moving ferrets and reconstructing spatial receptive fields in either head-centered or world-centered co-ordinate frames. While the majority of neurons (~80%) encode sound location relative to the head, a minority (20%) of neurons represent the location of a sound source in the world, independently of the orientation of the animal. In the second study I will highlight the impact that visual signals can have on auditory cortical activity and present data suggesting that one role for the early integration of auditory and visual signals in auditory cortex is to support auditory scene analysis.