Role of rapid plasticity in the enhanced performance of auditory tasks

Humans interacting in real-life natural environments and cityscapes need to recognize sound sources, track their dynamics and locations, while simultaneously suppressing interference from clutter and distractors. Neurophysiological studies of auditory brain function during such behavior in humans and animals have revealed a variety of remarkably rapid adaptations that kick in when they become engaged in task performance. This plasticity enhances the representation of target sounds relative to the background within fractions of a second. The underlying synaptic mechanisms and networks remain largely unknown, but are currently the focus of intensive experimental studies.