Auditory researchers publish sensory processing research in PNAS

Former ISR postdoctoral researcher Stephen David*, Professor Shihab Shamma (ECE/ISR), and ISR Associate Research Scientist Jonathan Fritz have published an article in the Dec. 21, 2011 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

“Task reward structure shapes rapid receptive field plasticity in auditory cortex” suggests that top-down control of sensory processing can be shaped by task reward structure in addition to required sensory discrimination.

The effects of attention on sensory processing vary across task paradigms, suggesting that the brain may use multiple strategies and mechanisms to highlight attended stimuli and link them to motor action. Working memory and motor planning signals for eye movements may drive spatial attention effects in the visual cortex.

The study’s findings predict that it should be possible to suppress visual responses with an appropriate approach behavior paradigm. The study also suggests that the form of learning influences how information is actively processed, stored, and recalled in the brain.

Developing a deeper understanding of how learned reward and motor contingencies control sensory processing may lead to more effective approaches to behavioral training and a more complete picture of how sensory information from diverse behavioral contexts is integrated into a unified representation.

* Stephen David is now an assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University, where he heads the Laboratory of Brain, Hearing, and Behavior in the Oregon Hearing Research Center.

Published December 23, 2011