Auditory Cortex Lesions in the Rat Impair Both Temporal Acuity and Noise Increment Thresholds, Revealing a Common Neural Substrate

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Temporal acuity for acoustic transients in rats with bilateral auditory cortex lesions (n=6) was compared with that of sham-surgery control rats (n=4), using a standard gap-detection method. A comparison of sensitivity to quiet gaps in noise and dark gaps in light tested for a cross-modal effect of the lesion. The groups were compared also in their sensitivity to noise offset, to noise increments, and to noise pulses presented in quiet. Stimulus detection was assessed with the startle reflex modification procedure, which uses changes in reflex expression caused by stimuli presented immediately before reflex elicitation as the objective evidence for their detection. There were no group differences in sensitivity to noise offset, noise pulses, or dark gaps in light. In contrast, the lesion reduced sensitivity to noise increments and eliminated gap detection. These deficits were maintained for 1 month and only partially recovered 2 months after surgery. The data indicate that the auditory cortex is critically important for temporal acuity in hearing, and suggest that its contribution to gap detection is to enhance the salience of noise increments at the end of the gap.

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