Bats and frogs and animals in between: evidence for a common central timing mechanism to extract periodicity pitch

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2011 May;197(5):585-94. doi: 10.1007/s00359-010-0607-4. Epub 2010 Nov 12.


Widely divergent vertebrates share a common central temporal mechanism for representing periodicities of acoustic waveform events. In the auditory nerve, periodicities corresponding to frequencies or rates from about 10 Hz to over 1,000 Hz are extracted from pure tones, from low-frequency complex sounds (e.g., 1st harmonic in bullfrog calls), from mid-frequency sounds with low-frequency modulations (e.g., amplitude modulation rates in cat vocalizations), and from time intervals between high-frequency transients (e.g., pulse-echo delay in bat sonar). Time locking of neuronal responses to periodicities from about 50 ms down to 4 ms or less (about 20-300 Hz) is preserved in the auditory midbrain, where responses are dispersed across many neurons with different onset latencies from 4-5 to 20-50 ms. Midbrain latency distributions are wide enough to encompass two or more repetitions of successive acoustic events, so that responses to multiple, successive periods are ongoing simultaneously in different midbrain neurons. These latencies have a previously unnoticed periodic temporal pattern that determines the specific times for the dispersed on-responses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Ranidae / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*