Research Articles

Auditory Spatial Receptive Fields Created by Multiplication

Science13 Apr 2001Vol 292, Issue 5515pp. 249-252DOI: 10.1126/science.1059201


Examples of multiplication by neurons or neural circuits are scarce, although many computational models use this basic operation. The owl's auditory system computes interaural time (ITD) and level (ILD) differences to create a two-dimensional map of auditory space. Space-specific neurons are selective for combinations of ITD and ILD, which define, respectively, the horizontal and vertical dimensions of their receptive fields. A multiplication of separate postsynaptic potentials tuned to ITD and ILD, rather than an addition, can account for the subthreshold responses of these neurons to ITD-ILD pairs. Other nonlinear processes improve the spatial tuning of the spike output and reduce the fit to the multiplicative model.

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We thank P. Mitra and F. Gabbiani for their advice on using the svd, G. Kreiman and B. Christianson for their help with mathematics, C. Koch and G. Laurent for their enthusiasm and criticisms, C. Malek for computer matters, and G. Akutagawa for histology. This work was supported by NIH grant DC00134.

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Published In

Volume 292 | Issue 5515
13 April 2001

Submission history

Received: 22 January 2001
Accepted: 9 March 2001
Published in print: 13 April 2001


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José Luis Peña*
Division of Biology 216-76, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.
Masakazu Konishi
Division of Biology 216-76, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail [email protected]

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