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Inhibitory Plasticity in a Lateral Band Improves Cortical Detection of Natural Vocalizations


The interplay between excitation and inhibition in the auditory cortex is crucial for the processing of acoustic stimuli. However, the precise role that inhibition plays in the distributed cortical encoding of natural vocalizations has not been well studied. We recorded single units (SUs) and local field potentials (LFPs) in the awake mouse auditory cortex while presenting pup isolation calls to animals that either do (mothers) or do not (virgins) recognize the sounds as behaviorally relevant. In both groups, we observed substantial call-evoked inhibition. However, in mothers this was earlier, longer, stronger, and more stereotyped compared to virgins. This difference was most apparent for recording sites tuned to tone frequencies lower than the pup calls’ high-ultrasonic frequency range. We hypothesize that this auditory cortical inhibitory plasticity improves pup call detection in a relatively specific manner by increasing the contrast between call-evoked responses arising from high-ultrasonic and lateral frequency neural populations.