The acoustic features useful for converting auditory information into perceived objects are poorly understood. Although auditory cortex neurons have been described as being narrowly tuned and preferentially responsive to narrowband signals, naturally occurring sounds are generally wideband with unique spectral energy profiles. Through the use of parametric wideband acoustic stimuli, we found that such neurons in awake marmoset monkeys respond vigorously to wideband sounds having complex spectral shapes, preferring stimuli of either high of low spectral contrast. Low contrast-preferring neurons cannot be studied thoroughly with narrowband stimuli and have not been previously described. These findings indicate that spectral contrast reflects an important stimulus decomposition in auditory cortex and may contribute to the recognition of acoustic objects.
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