Fine frequency tuning in monkey auditory cortex and thalamus

Edward L. Bartlett, Srivatsun Sadagopan, Xiaoqin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The frequency resolution of neurons throughout the ascending auditory pathway is important for understanding how sounds are processed. In many animal studies, the frequency tuning widths are about 1/5th octave wide in auditory nerve fibers and much wider in auditory cortex neurons. Psychophysical studies show that humans are capable of discriminating far finer frequency differences. A recent study suggested that this is perhaps attributable to fine frequency tuning of neurons in human auditory cortex (Bitterman Y, Mukamel R, Malach R, Fried I, Nelken I. Nature 451: 197-201, 2008). We investigated whether such fine frequency tuning was restricted to human auditory cortex by examining the frequency tuning width in the awake common marmoset monkey. We show that 27% of neurons in the primary auditory cortex exhibit frequency tuning that is finer than the typical frequency tuning of the auditory nerve and substantially finer than previously reported cortical data obtained from anesthetized animals. Fine frequency tuning is also present in 76% of neurons of the auditory thalamus in awake marmosets. Frequency tuning was narrower during the sustained response compared to the onset response in auditory cortex neurons but not in thalamic neurons, suggesting that thalamocortical or intracortical dynamics shape time-dependent frequency tuning in cortex. These findings challenge the notion that the fine frequency tuning of auditory cortex is unique to human auditory cortex and that it is a de novo cortical property, suggesting that the broader tuning observed in previous animal studies may arise from the use of anesthesia during physiological recordings or from species differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-859
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Bandwidth
  • Marmoset
  • Medial geniculate
  • Thalamocortical dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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