Srivatsun Sadagopan, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Neurobiology




Personal Website

website link

Education & Training

PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (2008)

Campus Address

10021 Biomedical Science Tower-3

One-Line Research Description

Cortical mechanisms underlying the processing of complex sounds.

Central question

We hear sounds in a wide range of listening conditions, of which few parameters are under our control. The location, intensity, presence of noise, and presence of other sounds all alter the pressure waveform that impinges on our eardrums. Yet, we are able to interpret these varied physical waveforms as arising from the same underlying sound. Our perception of sounds is perceptually invariant to a large number of nuisance parameters. The research thrust of our laboratory is to study the mechanisms by which invariant representations of sounds are generated in primary and higher auditory cortex.


Our approach

Inspired by Marr, we use a multifaceted approach to determine how invariant representations are constructed at multiple stages of the auditory processing hierarchy.


Behavioral/Computational goals: We study a set of sounds, vocalizations, that are behaviorally critical for vocal animals, allowing us to define a clear computational goal for auditory processing. Using behavioral techniques such as pupillometry and operant training, we probe the limits of behavior, allowing us to develop constraints for models.


Theoretical/Algorithms: We develop theoretical models to determine what algorithms are necessary for the optimal performance of these behaviors, and derive specific predictions of neural response properties.


Experimental/Implementation: We use large-scale electrophysiological recordings to determine how these algorithms might be implemented in the auditory pathway. We use cell-type specific optogenetics to causally perturb neural circuits to determine the mechanism of implementation. We expect to add imaging techniques to this experimental suite in the near future. This integrative approach allows us to characterize neural representations at multiple stages of auditory processing and determine how they are transformed from one stage to the next.


Our research is aimed at obtaining a complete understanding of how the auditory system gradually transforms the neural representation of sounds from one that is based on the sensing of individual frequencies to a representation that can support complex behaviors such as speech perception, and eventually social cognition. Patients with communication disorders such as dyslexia, some sensory aphasias, the hearing impaired, and the elderly with age-related decline in hearing face significant challenges in perceiving complex sounds in realistic conditions. We will provide fundamental insights into these disorders by understanding the circuit mechanisms by which the brain extracts meaningful signals from noise.



Representative Publications

Representative Publications:

Frequency-following responses to speech sounds are highly conserved across species and contain cortical contributions. Nike Gnanateja G, Rupp K, Llanos F, Remick M, Pernia M, Sadagopan S*, Teichert T*, Abel TJ*, Chandrasekaran B* (*equally contributing senior authors) eNeuro 2021; 10.1523/ENEURO.0451-21.2021

Neuronal selectivity to complex vocalization features emerges in the superficial layers of primary auditory cortex. Montes-Lourido P*, Kar M*, David SV, Sadagopan S. (*equal contribution) PLoS Biology 2021 19: e3001299 (preprint at bioRxiv 2021)

Pupillometry as a reliable metric of auditory detection and discrimination across diverse stimulus paradigms in animal models. Montes-Lourido P, Kar M, Kumbam I, Sadagopan S. Sci. Rep. 2021 11: 3108 (preprint at bioRxiv 2020)

Optimal features for auditory categorization. Liu ST, Montes-Lourido P, Wang X, Sadagopan S. Nat. Comm. 2019 Article number: 1302

A causal relationship between face-patch activity and face-detection behavior. Sadagopan S, Zarco W, Freiwald WA. Elife. 2017 Apr 4;6. pii: e18558.

High-field functional magnetic resonance imaging of vocalization processing in marmosets. Sadagopan S, Temiz-Karayol NZ, Voss HU. Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 19;5:10950.

Feedforward origins of response variability underlying contrast invariant orientation tuning in cat visual cortex. Sadagopan S, Ferster D. Neuron. 2012 Jun 7;74(5):911-23.

Fine frequency tuning in monkey auditory cortex and thalamus. Bartlett EL, Sadagopan S, Wang X. J Neurophysiol. 2011 Aug;106(2):849-59.

Contribution of inhibition to stimulus selectivity in primary auditory cortex of awake primates. Sadagopan S, Wang X. J Neurosci. 2010 May 26;30(21):7314-25.

Nonlinear spectrotemporal interactions underlying selectivity for complex sounds in auditory cortex. Sadagopan S, Wang X. J Neurosci. 2009 Sep 9;29(36):11192-202.

Level invariant representation of sounds by populations of neurons in primary auditory cortex. Sadagopan S, Wang X. J Neurosci. 2008 Mar 26;28(13):3415-26.