Directionality and frequency tuning of primary saccular afferents of a vocal fish, the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus)

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2002 Sep;188(8):631-41. doi: 10.1007/s00359-002-0338-2. Epub 2002 Aug 21.


While particle motion is thought to directly stimulate the inner ear of most fish species, it is difficult to measure and might not be predictable from pressure measurements in a small tank. It is therefore important to replicate experiments conducted relative to pressure measurements using stimuli of known particle motion, to ensure that unmeasured components of the stimulus field do not produce misleading frequency response profiles. The frequency sensitivity of the inner ear of the plainfin midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus, in response to isopressure stimuli has been described. This study now examines the frequency and directional response properties of midshipman saccular afferents in response to whole-body displacements simulating acoustic particle motion. Best frequencies were distributed bimodally, with peaks at 50 Hz and 100 Hz. Most units had cosinusoidally shaped directional response profiles in the horizontal and vertical planes, though some units showed slight deviations from this pattern. A few units (probably saccular efferents) had omnidirectional directional response profiles and did not phase lock to the stimulus waveform. These results are consistent with responses of the midshipman saccular nerve to isopressure stimuli, and strengthen the hypothesis that the frequency sensitivity of the midshipman ear matches the frequency content of behaviorally relevant vocalizations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology*
  • Batrachoidiformes / physiology*
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motion
  • Otolithic Membrane / innervation
  • Otolithic Membrane / physiology
  • Pressure
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Saccule and Utricle / innervation
  • Saccule and Utricle / physiology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sound Localization / physiology*
  • Vestibulocochlear Nerve / physiology*