Recent advances in understanding the auditory cortex.
King AJ., Teki S., Willmore BDB.
Our ability to make sense of the auditory world results from neural processing that begins in the ear, goes through multiple subcortical areas, and continues in the cortex. The specific contribution of the auditory cortex to this chain of processing is far from understood. Although many of the properties of neurons in the auditory cortex resemble those of subcortical neurons, they show somewhat more complex selectivity for sound features, which is likely to be important for the analysis of natural sounds, such as speech, in real-life listening conditions. Furthermore, recent work has shown that auditory cortical processing is highly context-dependent, integrates auditory inputs with other sensory and motor signals, depends on experience, and is shaped by cognitive demands, such as attention. Thus, in addition to being the locus for more complex sound selectivity, the auditory cortex is increasingly understood to be an integral part of the network of brain regions responsible for prediction, auditory perceptual decision-making, and learning. In this review, we focus on three key areas that are contributing to this understanding: the sound features that are preferentially represented by cortical neurons, the spatial organization of those preferences, and the cognitive roles of the auditory cortex.