Thalamocortical Processing of Temporal Cues in Sounds

Kasey Smith



The ability of the brain to extract meaningful information from complex sounds is what allows mammals to understand species-specific communication as well as important environmental cues such as the sound of water or of potential predators or prey. The auditory cortex of humans and other mammals contains multiple cortical regions that unique sensitivities to both spectral and temporal sound cues. This discourse will explore three main factors proposed to determine these distinct processing capabilities in regard to temporal sound cues; the distribution of glutamate transporters in the thalamus, the architecture of afferent pathways between the thalamus and auditory cortex, and the organization of patterns of neurons in the thalamus and cortical fields. It is hypothesized that while the site from which thalamic input originates accounts for the majority of variation between cortical fields, a combination of these properties is responsible for producing the full breadth of temporal cue sound processing abilities seen in the brain. Recognition of the importance of temporal cues in speech comprehension indicates that a thorough understanding of the topic is imperative to the development of effective cochlear implant technology.