Converging evidence now supports the idea that auditory cortex is an important step for the emergence of auditory percepts. Recent studies have extended the list of complex, nonlinear sound features coded by cortical neurons. Moreover, we are beginning to uncover general properties of cortical representations, such as invariance and discreteness, which reflect the structure of auditory perception. Complexity, however, emerges not only through nonlinear shaping of auditory information into perceptual bricks. Behavioral context and task-related information strongly influence cortical encoding of sounds via ascending neuromodulation and descending top-down frontal control. These effects appear to be mediated through local inhibitory networks. Thus, auditory cortex can be seen as a hub linking structured sensory representations with behavioral variables.
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