Sequential Filtering Processes Shape Feature Detection in Crickets: A Framework for Song Pattern Recognition

Front Physiol. 2016 Feb 25;7:46. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00046. eCollection 2016.


Intraspecific acoustic communication requires filtering processes and feature detectors in the auditory pathway of the receiver for the recognition of species-specific signals. Insects like acoustically communicating crickets allow describing and analysing the mechanisms underlying auditory processing at the behavioral and neural level. Female crickets approach male calling song, their phonotactic behavior is tuned to the characteristic features of the song, such as the carrier frequency and the temporal pattern of sound pulses. Data from behavioral experiments and from neural recordings at different stages of processing in the auditory pathway lead to a concept of serially arranged filtering mechanisms. These encompass a filter for the carrier frequency at the level of the hearing organ, and the pulse duration through phasic onset responses of afferents and reciprocal inhibition of thoracic interneurons. Further, processing by a delay line and coincidence detector circuit in the brain leads to feature detecting neurons that specifically respond to the species-specific pulse rate, and match the characteristics of the phonotactic response. This same circuit may also control the response to the species-specific chirp pattern. Based on these serial filters and the feature detecting mechanism, female phonotactic behavior is shaped and tuned to the characteristic properties of male calling song.

Keywords: calling song; coincidence detector; delay line; feature detection; modulation; onset activity; post-inhibitory rebound; reciprocal inhibition.

Publication types

  • Review