Auditory cortex modelled as a dynamical network of oscillators: Understanding event-related fields and their adaptation
Adaptation, the reduction of neuronal responses by repetitive stimulation, is a ubiquitous feature of auditory cortex (AC). It is not clear what causes adaptation, but short-term synaptic depression (STSD) is a potential candidate for the underlying mechanism. We examined this hypothesis via a computational model based on AC anatomy, which includes serially connected core, belt, and parabelt areas. The model replicates the event-related field (ERF) of the magnetoencephalogram as well as ERF adaptation. The model dynamics are described by excitatory and inhibitory state variables of cell populations, with the excitatory connections modulated by STSD. We analysed the system dynamics by linearizing the firing rates and solving the STSD equation using time-scale separation. This allows for characterization of AC dynamics as a superposition of damped harmonic oscillators, so-called normal modes. We show that repetition suppression of the N1m is due to a mixture of causes, with stimulus repetition modifying both the amplitudes and the frequencies of the normal modes. In this view, adaptation results from a complete reorganization of AC dynamics rather than a reduction of activity in discrete sources. Further, both the network structure and the balance between excitation and inhibition contribute significantly to the rate with which AC recovers from adaptation. This lifetime of adaptation is longer in the belt and parabelt than in the core area, despite the time constants of STSD being spatially constant. Finally, we critically evaluate the use of a single exponential function to describe recovery from adaptation.