Auditory experience can reshape cortical maps and transform receptive field properties of neurons in the auditory cortex. The exact form of this plasticity depends on the behavioral context, and the spectrotemporal features of the salient acoustic stimuli. Neuroscientists believe that auditory cortical cells may undergo rapid, context-dependent changes of their receptive field properties when different auditory behavioral tasks are undertaken. This kind of plasticity would likely involve a selective functional reshaping of the underlying cortical circuitry to sculpt the most effective receptive field for accomplishing the current auditory task.
Shamma and his research team will explore the underlying mechanisms that give rise to this extraordinary functional plasticity. They will extend studies of task-related plasticity in the auditory cortex to a variety of new tasks involving speech stimuli, new behavioral paradigms (contrasting discrimination versus recognition). They will explore plasticity in higher-order auditory cortical fields, and investigate the possible role of top-down signals from frontal cortex in modulating adaptive plasticity in the auditory cortex.
This is a one-year, $320K grant.