The Auditory Cortex: A Synthesis of Human and Animal Research

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Create Alert. Share This Paper. Figures and Tables from this paper. Figures and Tables. References Publications referenced by this paper. Hemispheric shifts of sound representation in auditory cortex with conceptual listening. What is reflected in auditory cortex activity: Properties of sound stimuli or what the brain does with them? Scheich , F. Ohl , H. Schulze , A. Hess , A. Sound-level-dependent representation of frequency modulations in human auditory cortex: a low-noise fMRI study.

Latency of the auditory evoked neuromagnetic field components: stimulus dependence and insights toward perception. Furthermore, our present finding of generally higher receptor densities in the supragranular than in the infragranular layers of most cortical areas is supported by a comparable laminar relation of synapse numbers Huttenlocher and Dabholkar, ; DeFelipe et al. Since all cortical layers expressed all receptor types studied here, we analyzed the aspect of multi-receptor expression by calculating receptor fingerprints, a major tool for characterizing the balance between receptor expressions in the different strata.

Here, the densities of 15 different receptor types in each of the 44 areas with a brain-wide distribution were visualized separately for each stratum. The discriminant analyses demonstrated the regional inhomogeneity of the fingerprints averaged over all layers and separately for each of the three strata.

The results of the subsequent pairwise comparisons between areas, which resulted in significant differences only for a subsample of pairs, is not surprising because only three brains could be included in the present study of 15 different receptors in 44 cortical areas and their three strata. An enlargement of the sample of brains is currently not possible due to practical limitations shortage of adequate human brain tissue with short post mortem delay, technical difficulties associated with the serial sectioning of entire deep frozen and unfixed human hemispheres and the financial requirements for autoradiographical processing of thousands of sections.

The size of the fingerprints, scaled by absolute mean areal or stratum-specific densities, reflects the sum of the densities of all receptors, and shows considerable regional variations. These normalized fingerprints also show a regional heterogeneity of multi-receptor expression both for the mean areal densities and the stratum-specific densities. The size of the absolute fingerprint of a cortical area is defined by the sum of the densities of all receptors measured in that area.


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In the supragranular stratum, the sum of the densities of all receptors is consistently larger throughout all areas than that of the granular stratum. The infragranular stratum reaches the lowest value. The largest fingerprints are found in the primary, secondary, and early visual areas, as well as in temporal and parietal multimodal association areas and area 11 of the orbitofrontal cortex, particularly in the supragranular stratum. The size of the fingerprints of the infragranular stratum is very low in the primary visual cortex, which stands out by an extremely large size of the fingerprint in its supragranular stratum.

This is in contrast to the supra- vs. In conclusion, the relation of the densities of all receptors can vary between supragranular and infragranular strata in a regionally and functionally dependent manner. The independent variation of receptor expression between both strata is further supported by the shape of the fingerprints, which addresses the balance between receptor types in a given area see below. The smallest fingerprints are found in the primary motor cortex area 4 as previously described in Zilles et al.

Accordingly, by also studying the premotor cortex, our previous conclusion based on a multi-receptor fingerprint analysis in the primary motor cortex of a partly different brain sample can now be generalized for all motor areas, which show the lowest level of the sum of all receptor densities studied in the 44 cortical regions. The motor areas are followed by areas 44 and 45 of the Broca region. These results of a multi-receptor fingerprint analysis emphasize a special position of these language-related areas between language and motor function. However, highest myelination levels were reported for area 41 and 42 and the fusiform gyrus, and much lower levels for area 38 and 20 Hopf, , but the size of fingerprints of these areas shows a sequence from large to small sizes of fingerprint which does not reflect the myelination degree; e.

Furthermore, the sparsely myelinated area 20 has a fingerprint size above the average. Moreover, the fingerprint size of area 20 is well comparable to that of the highly myelinated areas 41 and Therefore, the regional myelination levels vary independently from those of receptor densities. Since myelinated fibers do not have synaptic contacts on the surface of the myelin sheaths, and therefore do not express transmitter receptors along their course through a cortical area, a higher portion of cortical tissue in these areas is free of receptors compared to areas with lower content of myelinated fibers.

This may better explain the regional and laminar heterogeneity of the sizes of absolute fingerprints and the low levels total sum of the densities of all receptors in these particular regions than a general quenching effect. Thus, the issue of quenching is also relevant for all data from the granular stratum of V1, and may be underestimated. However, the potential quenching effect apparently did not severely influence the clustering of the granular stratum of V1 as a whole, because layer IVb contributes by only about a third of the size of the granular stratum, and it is found in the same cluster as other granular stratum-specific data in all other cortical areas with a distinct layer IV.

In general, unimodal sensory areas show a higher inter-laminar divergence of total receptor densities than multimodal association areas. This suggests a greater difference of receptor-mediated processing mechanisms between the cortical layers in the unimodal sensory areas, particularly in the primary visual cortex, compared to multimodal association areas. The principal differences in the total densities of all receptors in a cortical area may be associated with the different prevailing connections of cortical layers. Thus, these different connectivity patterns may be paralleled by different receptor expression levels in the cortical strata.

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Furthermore, the branching of the apical dendrites is maximal in the supragranular stratum compared to the other strata Lund et al. The number of synapses shows a comparable trend Rakic et al. The similar laminar distribution of the number of synapses and the density of receptors is further supported by reports which demonstrated their parallel development during brain maturation Rakic et al. Thus, the stratum-specific proportion between the sizes of receptor fingerprints may also indicate a comparable laminar distribution of the total number of synapses in a given cortical area.

In contrast to the absolute size of fingerprints, which is caused by the total density of all receptors in a given area, the shape of a fingerprint reflects the balance between the different receptors in an area. Since the absolute fingerprints are based on the same scaling of the densities of all receptors, the peculiarities of modulatory receptors are difficult to recognize by visual inspection, because their absolute densities are lower than those of the GABAergic receptors, sometimes by two orders of magnitude.

Therefore, we additionally calculated normalized fingerprints.

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Thus, the impact of the M 2 receptor on the specific shape of a fingerprint, and possibly on the balance between all receptors, is relatively the highest in V1. This suggests that the influence of this receptor is the highest in this area compared to the other areas examined here. A further exceptional position is observed for the M 3 receptor in the inferior parietal area PGp Supplementary Figure S2.

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In conclusion, the normalized fingerprints clearly demonstrate locally specific roles of certain receptor types which lead to different balances between the receptors in the here studied areas and possibly to such different balances in all other regions of the cerebral cortex. That is a hint to a regional specificity of the receptor-mediated mechanisms of information processing. Since both the different sizes and shapes of fingerprints reflect the regional and stratum-specific balances between receptors, a multidimensional scaling analysis of the fingerprints was performed.

It shows that each stratum and each area have a characteristic fingerprint and thus, specific levels of total receptor densities and balances between the receptors Figure 5. This analysis shows that the fingerprints of the three strata of all areas form three different clusters. This result supports our interpretation above that the stratum-specific information processing is based on different balances between the receptors. The separation between the clusters of the three strata is nearly perfect, and their fingerprints do not overlap in the multidimensional scaling analysis.

Only exceptions from this general finding are the positions of the fingerprints of the granular stratum in motor areas 4 and 6, which are shifted into the range of the infragranular cluster, and the concomitant shift of the supragranular fingerprints into the granular cluster. In the vast majority of the literature, areas 4 and 6 are described as being agranular, i. This width was derived from data of von Economo and Koskinas , who described the width of layer IV as being approximately this size in the rostrally adjacent frontal areas. Since the fingerprints of supragranular and granular strata of areas 4 and 6 are shifted to the clusters of the granular and infragranular strata, respectively, our multidimensional scaling analysis is thus a hint to a receptor expression pattern of the granular stratum in these areas completely different from the patterns in other cortical regions.

Thus, the question remains whether this is a specificity of the motor areas, or these areas do not have a granular stratum comparable to those of all other isocortical regions. The supragranular fingerprints of areas 44 and 45 are also shifted into the cluster of the fingerprints of the granular stratum, though only slightly. The separation of the layer-specific fingerprints further supports the existence of the above discussed divergence of receptor supported processing mechanisms between the three strata. The principal separation of the layers by their receptor fingerprints does not exclude a vertically organized interaction between the layers according to the concept of functional columns.

Rather, it emphasizes that the stratum-specific receptor balances occurring at the different levels of a column are embedded in a vertically organized interaction which enables the area-specific functions. The degree of similarity between the fingerprints of the three strata and of all layers together was analyzed by hierarchical cluster analyses which revealed a considerable regional heterogeneity, but also some notable general rules. Early visual areas were clearly separated from the rest of the cortex if we focus on the supragranular stratum and on all layers together, thus emphasizing similar receptor balances in this stratum over all these areas.

The analysis of the fingerprints of the granular stratum emphasizes the exceptional organization of layer IV in V1 and the similaritiy of these fingerprints in the ventral visual stream in contrast to the dorsal visual stream, since areas V3d and V3A are clearly separated from the cluster of the ventral stream areas. The infragranular stratum does not separate dorsal and ventral stream areas from each other. Therefore, we can conclude, that organizational principles of the visual cortex primary vs.

A further general finding was the close similarity of the receptor fingeprints of the primary and secondary somatosensory and auditory areas.

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This is most clearly seen in the supra- and infragranular strata, as well as in the fingerprints of all layers together. This leads again to the conclusion that primary and secondary sensory areas are clearly different from higher unimodal or multimodal cortices by their receptor balances. Although the function of the single receptor types has been intensely studied, the here important aspect of the role of the different receptor types within the cortical microcircuitry is, however, presently largely unknown.

Our results on strata- and area-specific fingerprints and their relationships to general classification schemes of the cortex may be seen as a stimulus to study the specific functional role of these recepotr types in a systemic environment. Beside the distinct position of primary and early sensory unimodal areas, it must be emphasized that also the separation of the cluster of all prefrontal areas analyses of all strata and all layers together from other multimodal association areas with separate clusters for the infraparietal and temporal regions is a strong hint to the analytical potential of the hierarchical receptor fingerprint analysis as a tool to understand principal rules of cortical segregation also in higher functional and multimodal systems.

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It is remarkable that the receptor fingerprints of the primary somatosensory area 3b and the primary auditory cortex area 41 are very similar and cluster together, while both fingerprints largely differ from that of the primary visual cortex V1. Therefore, fingerprints seem to reflect differences in modalities of sensory systems. The similarity of the fingerprints of areas 41 and 3b may be explained by their similar functional properties, i.

Thus, V1 has to comply with different functional requirements compared to the auditory and somatosensory systems. Comparable differences can also be found for the unimodal sensory areas and their fingerprints. The fingerprint of area 2 somatosensory cortex is very similar to that of area 42 secondary auditory cortex , and both clearly differ from the fingerprint of the secondary visual cortex V2.

All these findings suggest a modality-specific component of the shape of receptor fingerprints.