Functional magnetic resonance imaging of auditory cortical fields in awake marmosets

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Abstract

The primate auditory cortex is organized into a network of anatomically and functionally distinct processing fields. Because of its tonotopic properties, the auditory core has been the main target of neurophysiological studies ranging from sensory encoding to perceptual decision-making. By comparison, the auditory belt has been less extensively studied, in part due to the fact that neurons in the belt areas prefer more complex stimuli and integrate over a wider frequency range than neurons in the core, which prefer pure tones of a single frequency. Complementary approaches, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), allow the anatomical identification of both the auditory core and belt and facilitate their functional characterization by rapidly testing a range of stimuli across multiple brain areas simultaneously that can be used to guide subsequent neural recordings. Bridging these technologies in primates will serve to further expand our understanding of primate audition. Here, we developed a novel preparation to test whether different areas of the auditory cortex could be identified using fMRI in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), a powerful model of the primate auditory system. We used two types of stimulation, band pass noise and pure tones, to parse apart the auditory core from surrounding secondary belt fields. In contrast to most auditory fMRI experiments in primates, we employed a continuous sampling paradigm to rapidly collect data with little deleterious effects. Here we found robust bilateral auditory cortex activation in two marmosets and unilateral activation in a third utilizing this preparation. Furthermore, we confirmed results previously reported in electrophysiology experiments, such as the tonotopic organization of the auditory core and regions activating preferentially to complex over simple stimuli. Overall, these data establish a key preparation for future research to investigate various functional properties of marmoset auditory cortex.

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