A comparative study of hearing ability in fishes: the auditory brainstem response approach

J Comp Physiol A. 1998 Mar;182(3):307-18. doi: 10.1007/s003590050181.


Auditory brainstem response (ABR) techniques, an electrophysiological far-field recording method widely used in clinical evaluation of human hearing, were adapted for fishes to overcome the major limitations of traditional behavioral and electrophysiological methods (e.g., invasive surgery, lengthy training of fishes, etc.) used for fish hearing research. Responses to clicks and tone bursts of different frequencies and amplitudes were recorded with cutaneous electrodes. To evaluate the effectiveness of this method, the auditory sensitivity of a hearing specialist (goldfish, Carassius auratus) and a hearing generalist (oscar, Astronotus ocellatus) was investigated and compared to audiograms obtained through psychophysical methods. The ABRs could be obtained between 100 Hz and 2000 Hz (oscar), and up to 5000 Hz (goldfish). The ABR audiograms are similar to those obtained by behavioral methods in both species. The ABR audiogram of curarized (i.e., Flaxedil-treated) goldfish did not differ significantly from two previously published behavioral curves but was lower than that obtained from uncurarized fish. In the oscar, ABR audiometry resulted in lower thresholds and a larger bandwidth than observed in behavioral tests. Comparison between methods revealed the advantages of this technique: rapid evaluation of hearing in untrained fishes, and no limitations on repeated testing of animals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Species Specificity