Amplitude modulation rate dependent topographic organization of the auditory steady-state response in human auditory cortex

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Periodic modulations of an acoustic feature, such as amplitude over a certain frequency range, leads to phase locking of neural responses to the envelope of the modulation. Using electrophysiological methods this neural activity pattern, also called the auditory steady-state response (aSSR), is visible following frequency transformation of the evoked response as a clear spectral peak at the modulation frequency. Despite several studies employing the aSSR that show, for example, strongest responses for ˜40 Hz and an overall right-hemispheric dominance, it has not been investigated so far to what extent within auditory cortex different modulation frequencies elicit aSSRs at a homogenous source or whether the localization of the aSSR is topographically organized in a systematic manner. The latter would be suggested by previous neuroimaging works in monkeys and humans showing a periodotopic organization within and across distinct auditory fields. However, the sluggishness of the signal from these neuroimaging works prohibit inferences with regards to the fine-temporal features of the neural response. In the present study, we employed amplitude-modulated (AM) sounds over a range between 4 and 85 Hz to elicit aSSRs while recording brain activity via magnetoencephalography (MEG). Using beamforming and a fine spatially resolved grid restricted to auditory cortical processing regions, our study revealed a topographic representation of the aSSR that depends on AM rate, in particular in the medial-lateral (bilateral) and posterior-anterior (right auditory cortex) direction. In summary, our findings confirm previous studies that showing different AM rates to elicit maximal response in distinct neural populations. They extend these findings however by also showing that these respective neural ensembles in auditory cortex actually phase lock their activity over a wide modulation frequency range.

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