Dissociation of task engagement and arousal effects in auditory cortex and midbrain

Daniela Saderi, Zachary P. Schwartz, Charles R. Heller, Jacob R. Pennington, Stephen V. David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Both generalized arousal and engagement in a specific task influence sensory neural processing. To isolate effects of these state variables in the auditory system, we recorded single-unit activity from primary auditory cortex (A1) and inferior colliculus (IC) of ferrets during a tone detection task, while monitoring arousal via changes in pupil size. We used a generalized linear model to assess the influence of task engagement and pupil size on sound-evoked activity. In both areas, these two variables affected independent neural populations. Pupil size effects were more prominent in IC, while pupil and task engagement effects were equally likely in A1. Task engagement was correlated with larger pupil; thus, some apparent effects of task engagement should in fact be attributed to fluctuations in pupil size. These results indicate a hierarchy of auditory processing, where generalized arousal enhances activity in midbrain, and effects specific to task engagement become more prominent in cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere60153
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
StatePublished - Feb 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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