Linking Topography to Tonotopy in the Mouse Auditory Thalamocortical Circuit

Troy A. Hackett1*, Tania Rinaldi Barkat2*, Barbara M. J.1, Takao K Hensch2 & Daniel B. Polley3

1Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee 37232
2Center for Brain Science, Department Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
3Eaton-Peabody Laboratory, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA 02114


The mouse sensory neocortex is reported to lack several hallmark features of topographic organization such as ocular dominance and orientation columns in primary visual cortex or fine-scale tonotopy in primary auditory cortex (AI).

Here, we re-examined the question of auditory functional topography by aligning ultra-dense receptive field maps from the auditory cortex and thalamus of the mouse in vivo with the neural circuitry contained in the auditory thalamocortical slice in vitro. We observed precisely organized tonotopic maps of best frequency (BF) in the middle layers of AI and the anterior auditory field as well as in the ventral and medial divisions of the medial geniculate body (MGBv and MGBm, respectively). Tracer injections into distinct zones of the BF map in AI retrogradely labeled topo- graphically organized MGBv projections and weaker, mixed projections from MGBm. Stimulating MGBv along the tonotopic axis in the slice produced an orderly shift of voltage-sensitive dye (VSD) signals along the AI tonotopic axis, demonstrating topography in the mouse thalamocortical circuit that is preserved in the slice. However, compared with BF maps of neuronal spiking activity, the topographic order of subthreshold VSD maps was reduced in layer IV and even further degraded in layer II/III. Therefore, the precision of AI topography varies according to the source and layer of the mapping signal.

Our findings further bridge the gap between in vivo and in vitro approaches for the detailed cellular study of auditory thalamocortical circuit organization and plasticity in the genetically tractable mouse model.

*T.A.H. and T.R.B. contributed equally to this work.