Cortical sound representations are adapted to the acoustic environment. Early exposure to exponential frequency-modulated (FM) sweeps results in more neurons selective to the experienced sounds. Here we examined the influence of pulsed noise experience on the development of sound representations in the primary auditory cortex (AI) of the rat. In naïve animals, FM sweep direction selectivity depends on the characteristic frequency (CF) of the neuron - low CF neurons tend to select for upward sweeps and high CF neurons for downward sweeps. Such a CF dependence was not observed in animals that had received weeklong exposure to pulsed noise in periods from postnatal day 8 (P8) to P15 or from P24 to P39. In addition, AI tonotopicity, tuning bandwidth, intensity threshold, tone-responsiveness, and sweep response magnitude were differentially affected by the noise experience depending on the exposure time windows. These results are consistent with previous findings of feature-dependent multiple sensitive periods. The different effects induced here by pulsed noise and previously by FM sweeps further indicate that plasticity in cortical complex sound representations is specific to the sensory input.
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