The role of primary auditory cortex in sound localisation
This thesis investigates the involvement of primary auditory cortex (A1) in sound localisation. Experiments were carried out both to assess the effect of A1 inactivation on sound localisation, and to measure the sensitivity of single A1 neurons to sound source location. Ferrets were trained to localise bursts of broadband noise, of varying intensity and duration, from an array of loudspeakers that spanned 360 degrees in azimuth. Bilateral A1 inactivation caused an impairment on this task, but only for short-duration stimuli. Unilateral A1 inactivation also resulted in an impairment for short-duration stimuli, but this was limited to the side of space contralateral to the inactivation, and was only seen in animals which had been highly trained prior to surgery. A feature of the impairment in all animals was the increased number of "front-back confusions", where the animal's response was on the correct side of the midline but the wrong side of the interaural axis. Recordings from ferret A1 showed that the firing rate of individual neurons varied little as sound source location was changed. Further, the neurons' location sensitivity was affected by changes in stimulus intensity and duration. However, mathematical techniques were used to measure the information these neurons provided about sound source location, and it was found that this information was not sensitive to intensity or duration changes. The analysis also showed that the amount of information provided by response latency was greater than that carried by firing rate. Similar mathematical treatment tentatively suggested that the information from different neurons was only slightly redundant, so it may be possible to account for whole-animal localisation performance by assuming that the output of large numbers of neurons is considered. It is concluded that A1 is involved in processing the location of sound sources, but it seems unlikely that sound localisation is A1's primary or only role within the auditory system.