Neural responses in early sensory areas are influenced by top–down processing. In the visual system, early visual areas have been shown to actively participate in top–down processing based on their topographical properties. Although it has been suggested that the auditory cortex is involved in top–down control, functional evidence of topographic modulation is still lacking. Here, we show that mental auditory imagery for familiar melodies induces significant activation in the frequency-responsive areas of the primary auditory cortex (PAC). This activation is related to the characteristics of the imagery: when subjects were asked to imagine high-frequency melodies, we observed increased activation in the high- versus low-frequency response area; when the subjects were asked to imagine low-frequency melodies, the opposite was observed. Furthermore, we found that A1 is more closely related to the observed frequency-related modulation than R in tonotopic subfields of the PAC. Our findings suggest that top–down processing in the auditory cortex relies on a mechanism similar to that used in the perception of external auditory stimuli, which is comparable to early visual systems.

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