Perceptual Categorization and Neural Representations of Vocal Stimuli

Shen, Luqun (April 2022) Perceptual Categorization and Neural Representations of Vocal Stimuli. PhD thesis, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

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The ability to identify and categorize sensory stimuli is critical for the survival of organisms. While this behavior has been well characterized across multiple sensory modalities and multiple species, from invertebrates to humans, the neural mechanisms that drive this behavior remain a point of interest. In particular, we wanted to focus our efforts on how natural auditory stimuli are categorized, how those categories shift over time, and how those categories are represented in the auditory cortex. To study this, we took advantage of pup retrieval, a maternal mouse behavior where maternally experienced female mice will locate and retrieve pups separated from their home nest by utilizing ultrasonic vocalizations emitted from the pups. I describe how we studied this in this thesis, divided into five chapters. In the first chapter, I provide an overview of the field in regards to the auditory cortex and how sensory stimuli are categorized, as well as why pup retrieval can be a valuable model to study auditory categorization. In Chapters 2 and 3, I describe two behaviors, one freely moving and one a head-fixed Go No-Go task, which demonstrate how mice categorize auditory cues with pup calls. More specifically, I demonstrate how frequency seems to be one of the most important features in driving mice to categorize sounds as pup calls. However, if other spectrotemporal features of the sound are similar to that of the pup call, mice are more willing to tolerate differences in the frequency. Furthermore, I show that the presence of a low frequency band can inhibit the mouse’s ability to categorize a sound as a pup call. In Chapter 4, I describe single unit electrophysiology data that demonstrates how auditory cortex neurons respond towards full pup call trains as well as other broadband stimuli. In particular, I show that neurons in the auditory cortex of surrogate females have earlier responses towards pup calls compared to naïve females, and that these early responses also exist in response to narrow, high frequency bands. Furthermore, I show how low frequency sounds seem to be more correlated in their responses compared to high frequency ones both in naïve and surrogate females. I also show that following behavioral training, low frequency bandlimited noise becomes even more correlated, while high frequency bandlimited noise does not change. Finally, in Chapter 5, I describe my results in the context of the field as well as propose several follow up experiments which would support and expand our findings.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: organs, tissues, organelles, cell types and functions > tissues types and functions > auditory cortex
organism description > animal behavior > decision making
organism description > animal behavior > maternal
organism description > animal behavior > social
neurobiology > neuroscience > systems neuroscience
CSHL Authors:
Communities: CSHL labs > Shea lab
School of Biological Sciences > Theses
Depositing User: Sasha Luks-Morgan
Date: 14 April 2022
Date Deposited: 19 May 2022 14:32
Last Modified: 19 May 2022 14:32

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