Sound and vibration sensitivity of VIIIth nerve fibers in the frogs Leptodactylus albilabris and Rana pipiens pipiens

J Comp Physiol A. 1993;172(6):653-62. doi: 10.1007/BF00195391.


1. Responses of 73 fibers to dorso-ventral vibration were recorded in the saccular and utricular branchlets of Rana pipiens pipiens using a ventral approach. The saccular branchlet contained nearly exclusively vibration-sensitive fibers (33 out of 36) with best frequencies (BFs) between 10 and 70 Hz, whereas none of the 37 fibers encountered in the utricular branchlet responded to dorso-ventral vibrations. 2. Using a dorsal approach we recorded from the VIIIth nerve near its entry in the brainstem and analyzed responses to both sound and vibration stimuli for 65 fibers in R. pipiens pipiens and 25 fibers in Leptodactylus albilabris. The fibers were classified as amphibian papilla (AP), basilar papilla (BP), saccular or vestibular fibers based on their location in the nerve. Only AP and saccular fibers responded to vibrations. The AP-fibers responded to vibrations from 0.01 cm/s2 and to sound from 40 dB SPL by increasing their spike rate. Best frequencies (BFs) ranged from 60 to 900 Hz, and only fibers with BFs below 500 Hz responded to vibrations. The fibers had identical BF's for sound and vibration. The saccular fibers had BFs ranging from 10 to 80 Hz with 22 fibers having BFs at 40-50 Hz. The fibers responded to sound from 70 dB SPL and to vibrations from 0.01 cm/s2. 3. No differences in sensitivity, tuning or phase-locking were found between the two species, except that most BP-fibers in R. pipiens pipiens had BFs from 1.2 to 1.4 kHz, whereas those in L. albilabris had BFs from 2.0 to 2.2 kHz (matching the energy peak of L. albilabris' mating call). 4. The finding that the low-frequency amphibian papilla fibers are extremely sensitive to vibrations raises questions regarding their function in the behaving animal. They may be substrate vibration receptors, respond to sound-induced vibrations or bone-conducted sound.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers / radiation effects
  • Rana pipiens / physiology*
  • Saccule and Utricle / physiology
  • Saccule and Utricle / radiation effects
  • Sound*
  • Vestibulocochlear Nerve / physiology*
  • Vestibulocochlear Nerve / radiation effects
  • Vibration*