The efficient cortical encoding of natural scenes is essential for guiding adaptive behavior. Because natural scenes and network activity in cortical circuits share similar temporal scales, it is necessary to understand how the temporal structure of natural scenes influences network dynamics in cortical circuits and spiking output. We examined the relationship between the structure of natural acoustic scenes and its impact on network activity [as indexed by local field potentials (LFPs)] and spiking responses in macaque primary auditory cortex. Natural auditory scenes led to a change in the power of the LFP in the 2-9 and 16-30 Hz frequency ranges relative to the ongoing activity. In contrast, ongoing rhythmic activity in the 9-16 Hz range was essentially unaffected by the natural scene. Phase coherence analysis showed that scene-related changes in LFP power were at least partially attributable to the locking of the LFP and spiking activity to the temporal structure in the scene, with locking extending up to 25 Hz for some scenes and cortical sites. Consistent with distributed place and temporal coding schemes, a key predictor of phase locking and power changes was the overlap between the spectral selectivity of a cortical site and the spectral structure of the scene. Finally, during the processing of natural acoustic scenes, spikes were locked to LFP phase at frequencies up to 30 Hz. These results are consistent with an idea that the cortical representation of natural scenes emerges from an interaction between network activity and stimulus dynamics.
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