Enduring effects of early structured noise exposure on temporal modulation in the primary auditory cortex
Studies have shown that acoustic experiences significantly contribute to the functional shaping of the structural organization and signal processing capacities of the mammalian auditory system during postnatal development. Here, we show how an early epoch of exposure to structured noise influences temporal processing in the rat primary auditory cortex documented immediately after exposure and again in adulthood. Pups were continuously exposed to broadband-pulsed noise across the critical period for auditory system development. Immediately after cessation of exposure at postnatal day ≈35 (P35) or ≈55 days later (i.e., P90) in other rats, the temporal modulation-transfer functions of cortical neurons were documented. We found that pulsed noise exposure at a low modulation rate significantly decreased cortical responses to repetitive stimuli presented across a range of higher modulation rates. The highest temporal rate at which temporal modulation-transfer function was at half of its maximum was reduced when compared with naïve rats. Low-rate pulsed noise exposure also decreased cortical response synchronization at higher stimulus rates, as shown by vector strength and Rayleigh statistic measures. These postexposure changes endured into adulthood. These findings bear significant implications for the role of early sound experiences as contributors to the ontogeny of human auditory and language-related abilities and impairments.