Tonotopic organization of the sources of human auditory steady-state responses
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Steady-state responses (SSRs) or steady-state fields (SSFs) show maximum amplitude when tone pulses are presented at repetition rates near 40 Hz. This result has led to the hypothesis that the SSR/SSF consists of superimposed transient 'middle latency' responses which display wave periods near 40 Hz and summate with one another when phase locked by 40 Hz steady-state stimulation. We evaluated this hypothesis by comparing the cortical sources of the 40 Hz auditory SSF with sources of the middle latency Pa wave which is prominent in electrical and magnetic recordings, and with the cortical sources of the familiar N1 wave, at different carrier frequencies between 250 and 4000 Hz. SSF sources determined for the different carrier frequencies were found to display a 'medial' tendency tonotopy resembling that of the N1m (sources for the higher frequencies represented more deeply within the supratemporal sulcus), opposite the 'lateral' tendency tonotopy of the middle latency Pam (sources for the higher frequencies situated more laterally). A medial SSF tonotopy was observed in each of the subjects investigated, including three subjects for whom Pam and N1m maps were also available. These findings suggest that the 40 Hz SSF may not consist of summated or entrained middle latency responses, as has previously been proposed. Alternative mechanisms for the SSR are discussed.
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