Feature-detecting auditory neurons in the brain of a sound-producing fish

J Comp Physiol A. 1997 May;180(5):439-50. doi: 10.1007/s003590050061.


The mormyrid fish Pollimyrus adspersus has auditory specializations for sound pressure detection and uses acoustic displays in its natural social behavior. In this paper it is shown that auditory neurons in the mesencephalon (torus semicircularis) are activated selectively by temporal features of complex sounds. Single neurons were recorded while presenting sounds to fish underwater. The stimuli were acoustic click trains, 400 ms in duration, and were synthesized with differing inter-click-intervals (ICIs). The natural sounds of this species are composed similarly and the range of ICIs synthesized overlapped with the natural range (5-40 ms). One-third of the neurons studied were strongly selective for a narrow range of ICIs, increasing spike rate by ten fold or more at the best ICI compared to the minimum response observed. The best ICI for interval selective neurons remained stable when the sound pressure of the stimulus was changed. Neurons that were selective gave phasic responses to tone bursts, and most had non-monotonic rate level functions. The origin of interval selectivity is discussed and a time-based computational mechanism is proposed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / cytology
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal*