[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Barn owls integrate spatial information across frequency channels to localize sounds in space.
We presented barn owls with synchronous sounds that contained different bands of frequencies (3-5 kHz and 7-9 kHz) from different locations in space. When the owls were confronted with the conflicting localization cues from two synchronous sounds of equal level, their orienting responses were dominated by one of the sounds: they oriented toward the location of the low frequency sound when the sources were separated in azimuth; in contrast, they oriented toward the location of the high frequency sound when the sources were separated in elevation. We identified neural correlates of this behavioral effect in the optic tectum (OT, superior colliculus in mammals), which contains a map of auditory space and is involved in generating orienting movements to sounds. We found that low frequency cues dominate the representation of sound azimuth in the OT space map, whereas high frequency cues dominate the representation of sound elevation.
Significance: We argue that the dominance hierarchy of localization cues reflects several factors: 1) the relative amplitude of the sound providing the cue, 2) the resolution with which the auditory system measures the value of a cue, and 3) the spatial ambiguity in interpreting the cue. These same factors may contribute to the relative weighting of sound localization cues in other species, including humans.
PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(4):e10396. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nucleus isthmi pars parvocellularis (Ipc) is a midbrain cholinergic nucleus that shares reciprocal, topographic connections with the optic tectum (OT). Ipc neurons project to spatially restricted columns in the OT, contacting essentially all OT layers in a given column. Previous research characterizes the Ipc as a visual processor. We found that, in the barn owl, the Ipc responds to auditory as well as to visual stimuli. Auditory responses were tuned broadly for frequency, but sharply for spatial cues. We measured the tuning of Ipc units to binaural sound localization cues, including interaural timing differences (ITDs) and interaural level differences (ILDs). Units in the Ipc were tuned to specific values of both ITD and ILD and were organized systematically according to their ITD and ILD tuning, forming a map of space. The auditory space map aligned with the visual space map in the Ipc. These results demonstrate that the Ipc encodes the spatial location of objects, independent of stimulus modality. These findings, combined with the precise pattern of projections from the Ipc to the OT, suggest that the role of the Ipc is to regulate the sensitivity of OT neurons in a space-specific manner.
Journal of Neuroscience 01/2007; 26(49):12799-806. · 6.75 Impact Factor