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Dynamic topography and receptive fields in a model of auditory cortical plasticity

Self-organizing maps provide a useful framework for exploring the mechanisms of experience-dependent changes in auditory representations, including those induced by learning. Such models do a good job of explaining many of the changes in tonotopic structure and neural sensitivities produced by classical and operant conditioning involving pure tones [1], but are not able to account for several effects seen after cortical microstimulation, or after basal forebrain stimulation is repeatedly paired with presentations of sounds containing multiple frequencies. In particular, electrical stimulation of rat auditory cortex produces more changes in the responses properties of adjacent sites than they do at the site of stimulation [2], and these receptive field changes are not consistent with a process that makes the neighboring neurons more similar to the most strongly activated neurons. We developed a simple mapping network with a "center-surround" neighborhood function, and a cumulating training function, to assess whether such non-Hebbian learning could account for the kinds changes in cortical response properties seen after neurostimulation. The model exhibits many of the properties of self-organizing maps, but with more dynamic interactions between adjacent nodes that may better account for the variability in auditory cortical plasticity observed experimentally. Ongoing simulations with this model are providing new insights into how complex perceptual experiences restructure existing cortical representations.


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Correspondence to Eduardo Mercado III.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Mercado, E., Tilton, W. Dynamic topography and receptive fields in a model of auditory cortical plasticity. BMC Neurosci 8 (Suppl 2), P189 (2007).

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  • Receptive Field
  • Auditory Cortex
  • Perceptual Experience
  • Basal Forebrain
  • Response Property