Lesions of the auditory cortex impair azimuthal sound localization and its recalibration in ferrets.
Nodal FR., Kacelnik O., Bajo VM., Bizley JK., Moore DR., King AJ.
The role of auditory cortex in sound localization and its recalibration by experience was explored by measuring the accuracy with which ferrets turned toward and approached the source of broadband sounds in the horizontal plane. In one group, large bilateral lesions were made of the middle ectosylvian gyrus, where the primary auditory cortical fields are located, and part of the anterior and/or posterior ectosylvian gyrus, which contain higher-level fields. In the second group, the lesions were intended to be confined to primary auditory cortex (A1). The ability of the animals to localize noise bursts of different duration and level was measured before and after the lesions were made. A1 lesions produced a modest disruption of approach-to-target responses to short-duration stimuli (<500 ms) on both sides of space, whereas head orienting accuracy was unaffected. More extensive lesions produced much greater auditory localization deficits, again primarily for shorter sounds. In these ferrets, the accuracy of both the approach-to-target behavior and the orienting responses was impaired, and they could do little more than correctly lateralize the stimuli. Although both groups of ferrets were still able to localize long-duration sounds accurately, they were, in contrast to ferrets with an intact auditory cortex, unable to relearn to localize these stimuli after altering the spatial cues available by reversibly plugging one ear. These results indicate that both primary and nonprimary cortical areas are necessary for normal sound localization, although only higher auditory areas seem to contribute to accurate head orienting behavior. They also show that the auditory cortex, and A1 in particular, plays an essential role in training-induced plasticity in adult ferrets, and that this is the case for both head orienting responses and approach-to-target behavior.