Functional topography of human auditory cortex

Amber M. Leaver*, Josef P. Rauschecker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Functional and anatomical studies have clearly demonstrated that auditory cortex is populated by multiple subfields. However, functional characterization of those fields has been largely the domain of animal electrophysiology, limiting the extent to which human and animal research can inform each other. In this study, we used high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging to characterize human auditory cortical subfields using a variety of low-level acoustic features in the spectral and temporal domains. Specifically, we show that topographic gradients of frequency preference, or tonotopy, extend along two axes in human auditory cortex, thus reconciling historical accounts of a tonotopic axis oriented medial to lateral along Heschl’s gyrus and more recent findings emphasizing tonotopic organization along the anterior-posterior axis. Contradictory findings regarding topographic organization according to temporal modulation rate in acoustic stimuli, or “periodotopy,” are also addressed. Although isolated subregions show a preference for high rates of amplitude-modulated white noise (AMWN) in our data, large-scale “periodotopic” organization was not found. Organization byAMrate was correlated with dominant pitch percepts in AMWN in many regions. In short, our data expose early auditory cortex chiefly as a frequency analyzer, and spectral frequency, as imposed by the sensory receptor surface in the cochlea, seems to be the dominant feature governing large-scale topographic organization across human auditory cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1416-1428
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 27 2016


  • Auditory cortex
  • FMRI
  • Tonotopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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