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1.  Auditory Cortex Basal Activity Modulates Cochlear Responses in Chinchillas 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e36203.
The auditory efferent system has unique neuroanatomical pathways that connect the cerebral cortex with sensory receptor cells. Pyramidal neurons located in layers V and VI of the primary auditory cortex constitute descending projections to the thalamus, inferior colliculus, and even directly to the superior olivary complex and to the cochlear nucleus. Efferent pathways are connected to the cochlear receptor by the olivocochlear system, which innervates outer hair cells and auditory nerve fibers. The functional role of the cortico-olivocochlear efferent system remains debated. We hypothesized that auditory cortex basal activity modulates cochlear and auditory-nerve afferent responses through the efferent system.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Cochlear microphonics (CM), auditory-nerve compound action potentials (CAP) and auditory cortex evoked potentials (ACEP) were recorded in twenty anesthetized chinchillas, before, during and after auditory cortex deactivation by two methods: lidocaine microinjections or cortical cooling with cryoloops. Auditory cortex deactivation induced a transient reduction in ACEP amplitudes in fifteen animals (deactivation experiments) and a permanent reduction in five chinchillas (lesion experiments). We found significant changes in the amplitude of CM in both types of experiments, being the most common effect a CM decrease found in fifteen animals. Concomitantly to CM amplitude changes, we found CAP increases in seven chinchillas and CAP reductions in thirteen animals. Although ACEP amplitudes were completely recovered after ninety minutes in deactivation experiments, only partial recovery was observed in the magnitudes of cochlear responses.
These results show that blocking ongoing auditory cortex activity modulates CM and CAP responses, demonstrating that cortico-olivocochlear circuits regulate auditory nerve and cochlear responses through a basal efferent tone. The diversity of the obtained effects suggests that there are at least two functional pathways from the auditory cortex to the cochlea.
PMCID: PMC3340362  PMID: 22558383
2.  Neural Mechanisms of Human Perceptual Learning: Electrophysiological Evidence for a Two-Stage Process 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19221.
Humans and other animals change the way they perceive the world due to experience. This process has been labeled as perceptual learning, and implies that adult nervous systems can adaptively modify the way in which they process sensory stimulation. However, the mechanisms by which the brain modifies this capacity have not been sufficiently analyzed.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We studied the neural mechanisms of human perceptual learning by combining electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings of brain activity and the assessment of psychophysical performance during training in a visual search task. All participants improved their perceptual performance as reflected by an increase in sensitivity (d') and a decrease in reaction time. The EEG signal was acquired throughout the entire experiment revealing amplitude increments, specific and unspecific to the trained stimulus, in event-related potential (ERP) components N2pc and P3 respectively. P3 unspecific modification can be related to context or task-based learning, while N2pc may be reflecting a more specific attentional-related boosting of target detection. Moreover, bell and U-shaped profiles of oscillatory brain activity in gamma (30–60 Hz) and alpha (8–14 Hz) frequency bands may suggest the existence of two phases for learning acquisition, which can be understood as distinctive optimization mechanisms in stimulus processing.
We conclude that there are reorganizations in several neural processes that contribute differently to perceptual learning in a visual search task. We propose an integrative model of neural activity reorganization, whereby perceptual learning takes place as a two-stage phenomenon including perceptual, attentional and contextual processes.
PMCID: PMC3082555  PMID: 21541280

Results 1-2 (2)