In many communication systems, information is encoded in the temporal pattern of signals. For rhythmic signals that carry information in specific frequency bands, a neuronal system may profit from tuning its inherent filtering properties towards a peak sensitivity in the respective frequency range. The cricket Gryllus bimaculatus evaluates acoustic communication signals of both conspecifics and predators. The song signals of conspecifics exhibit a characteristic pulse pattern that contains only a narrow range of modulation frequencies. We examined individual neurons (AN1, AN2, ON1) in the peripheral auditory system of the cricket for tuning towards specific modulation frequencies by assessing their firing-rate resonance. Acoustic stimuli with a swept-frequency envelope allowed an efficient characterization of the cells' modulation transfer functions. Some of the examined cells exhibited tuned band-pass properties. Using simple computational models, we demonstrate how different, cell-intrinsic or network-based mechanisms such as subthreshold resonances, spike-triggered adaptation, as well as an interplay of excitation and inhibition can account for the experimentally observed firing-rate resonances. Therefore, basic neuronal mechanisms that share negative feedback as a common theme may contribute to selectivity in the peripheral auditory pathway of crickets that is designed towards mate recognition and predator avoidance.
Keywords: Acoustic communication; Auditory processing; Band-pass filtering; Negative feedback; Neuron models.