Neural basis of communication
Alston mouse foraging in the Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica
Animals rely on sounds for survival, and social/reproductive interactions. Our brain must perform the challenging tasks of rapidly recognizing, categorizing, and assigning communicative importance to sounds in a noisy environment. The instructions to these functions are found in the precise connections neurons make with one another. We study evolutionarily conserved mechanisms for decoding social calls in the Auditory Cortex of rodents. The organization of the cerebral cortex may appear stereotyped, but new tools that allow detailed investigation of neural circuits have revealed significant differences between cortical areas that perform different functions. These circuit specializations embedded in stereotyped modules are now believed to be the secret ingredients that enable cortical areas to perform specific tasks. Our goal is to reveal these unique circuit features in the Auditory Cortex and determine their behavioral significance.