Enhanced contrast sensitivity in auditory cortex as cats learn to discriminate sound frequencies

Russell S. Witte, Daryl R. Kipke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


To better understand the nature and time course for learning-induced cortical reorganization, we examined frequency-specific changes in auditory cortex as cats gradually improved at a difficult sound frequency discrimination task. Three adult cats were trained to discriminate between a tone pip at a fixed target frequency (S-) and a higher deviant frequency (S+). An adaptive training schedule led to an efficient estimate of the frequency discrimination threshold (FDT), which was used to track daily performance. Each cat was also implanted with an array of microwires in auditory cortex. Tone pips with different frequency and amplitude were used to map receptive fields. Onset responses were correlated with training time and the cat's ability to discriminate frequencies. Although lifetime of the neural implants varied among cats, each provided sufficient neural recording to relate at least 3 weeks of learning to response changes in the cortex. An improved FDT was associated with a differential decrease in response strength between the S- frequency and S+ frequencies. Response to the training frequencies gradually located in a local minimum compared to adjacent frequencies (p < 0.001, Cohen's d=0.50). Cortical changes were consistent with a theory of bimodal generalization that enhances stimulus classification by reducing similarity between reinforced and nonreinforced stimuli. Such a strategy may be especially appropriate during an early stage of learning to discriminate similar sounds and differ from later strategies required for fine discrimination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-184
Number of pages14
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Cat auditory cortex
  • Cochlear implant
  • Electrophysiology
  • Learning-induced plasticity
  • Multielectrode arrays
  • Operant conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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