The Role of Context in the Expression of Learning-Induced Plasticity of Single Neurons in Auditory Cortex

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Classical conditioning produces frequency-specific plasticity of receptive fields (RFs) of single neurons in cat auditory cortex (Diamond & Weinberger, 1986). In this article we show that although plasticity may be observed during both training trials and determination of RFs, it is usually expressed in a qualitatively different form (e.g., decreased response during conditioning vs. increased response to this same conditioned stimulus in the postconditioning RF). This differential expression of learning-induced plasticity provides evidence for a role of context in neurophysiological mechanisms of learning in auditory cortex. A model of cortical neurons functioning within a mosaic of influences is presented. The Functional Mosaic model views the induction and expression of plasticity as separate processes.

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Behavioral Neuroscience, v. 103, issue 3, p. 471-494