Auditory Cortex

Last update: September 13, 2022
By BrainMatters


The auditory cortex is important for processing sounds. This involves identifying the pitch, volume and location of a sound. This involves using a topographical map.


The auditory cortex is responsible for processing sounds. At the very beginning, processing of volume and pitch takes place. The auditory cortex is also responsible for localising a sound. The area is also important for processing speech.

Neurons in the auditory cortex respond best to a specific pitch (a specific frequency). Furthermore, neurons that respond to approximately the same frequencies are close together. This forms a topographical map of pitch, similar to the keys on a piano. This organisation is also called 'tonotopy'.


The auditory cortex is located in the temporal lobe, just above the ears. Input to this area comes directly from the auditory portion of the thalamus.


Unlike the visual cortex, the auditory cortex develops very early. Small children are already very good at distinguishing different tones with low frequencies. However, the ability to localise tones is not fully developed until years later.


Damage to this area can cause people to be unaware of sounds. However, the sounds do enter the ear and there are reflex reactions to some sounds. Think of very loud sounds, which make you look up to see if there is any danger.

Author: Myrthe Princen (translated by Thomas von Rein)
Image: Marcel Loeffen

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