Level dependence of spatial processing in the primate auditory cortex

Yi Zhou, Xiaoqin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Sound localization in both humans and monkeys is tolerant to changes in sound levels. The underlying neural mechanism, however, is not well understood. This study reports the level dependence of individual neurons' spatial receptive fields (SRFs) in the primary auditory cortex (A1) and the adjacent caudal field in awake marmoset monkeys. We found that most neurons' excitatory SRF components were spatially confined in response to broadband noise stimuli delivered from the upper frontal sound field. Approximately half the recorded neurons exhibited little change in spatial tuning width over a ~20-dB change in sound level, whereas the remaining neurons showed either expansion or contraction in their tuning widths. Increased sound levels did not alter the percent distribution of tuning width for neurons collected in either cortical field. The population-averaged responses remained tuned between 30- and 80-dB sound pressure levels for neuronal groups preferring contralateral, midline, and ipsilateral locations. We further investigated the spatial extent and level dependence of the suppressive component of SRFs using a pair of sequentially presented stimuli. Forward suppression was observed when the stimuli were delivered from "far" locations, distant to the excitatory center of an SRF. In contrast to spatially confined excitation, the strength of suppression typically increased with stimulus level at both the excitatory center and far regions of an SRF. These findings indicate that although the spatial tuning of individual neurons varied with stimulus levels, their ensemble responses were level tolerant. Widespread spatial suppression may play an important role in limiting the sizes of SRFs at high sound levels in the auditory cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)810-826
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Marmoset
  • Single neuron
  • Sound localization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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