Auditory processing in the cerebral cortex is comprised of an interconnected network of auditory and auditory-related areas distributed throughout the forebrain. The nexus of auditory activity is located in temporal cortex among several specialized areas, or fields, that receive dense inputs from the medial geniculate complex. These areas are collectively referred to as auditory cortex. Auditory activity is extended beyond auditory cortex via connections with auditory-related areas elsewhere in the cortex. Within this network, information flows between areas to and from countless targets, but in a manner that is characterized by orderly regional, areal and laminar patterns. These patterns reflect some of the structural constraints that passively govern the flow of information at all levels of the network. In addition, the exchange of information within these circuits is dynamically regulated by intrinsic neurochemical properties of projecting neurons and their targets. This article begins with an overview of the principal circuits and how each is related to information flow along major axes of the network. The discussion then turns to a description of neurochemical gradients along these axes, highlighting recent work on glutamate transporters in the thalamocortical projections to auditory cortex. The article concludes with a brief discussion of relevant neurophysiological findings as they relate to structural gradients in the network.
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