Spatial representation of frequency-modulated signals in the tonotopically organized auditory cortex analogue of the chick.

Research paper by P P Heil, H H Scheich

Indexed on: 22 Aug '92Published on: 22 Aug '92Published in: Journal of Comparative Neurology


For auditory communication, many birds, including domestic chicks, use a variety of frequency-modulated (FM) sounds. As a first approach to the spatial representation of such sounds in the central auditory system, we have analyzed 2-deoxyglucose (2DG) patterns that were produced by FM stimuli in the tonotopic map of the auditory forebrain area (field L/hyperstriatum ventrale complex) of domestic chicks. Linear FM signals, varying in the depth and range of modulation, and in the direction and rate of the frequency change, were tested. Also included were signals designed to mimic species-specific FM calls. All FM stimuli activated those regions of the map in which frequencies contained in the stimulus spectra were tonotopically represented. However, frequency and amplitude of the FM spectra were not faithfully reproduced by activation of the complete corresponding tonotopic space. FM signals that differed only in the direction of modulation, and therefore had identical long-term spectra, induced maximum 2DG activation at different locations of the tonotopic gradient. FM signals that differed in the rate of change of frequency produced maxima of 2DG uptake at different positions along an isofrequency dimension of the map. These results suggest that the direction of modulation may be represented in a complex fashion along the tonotopic axis of the structure, whereas the rate of change of frequency may be represented along an isofrequency dimension. None of the experiments provided evidence of FM-selective regions within the auditory forebrain complex. However, numerous telencephalic areas, in addition to the primary auditory area, were strongly activated in chicks stimulated with artificial "species-specific" FM signals. These areas could be involved in the processing of biologically relevant stimuli, requiring attention, recognition, and interpretation of the signals.