Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Single auditory neurons rapidly discriminate conspecific communication signals

Abstract

Animals that rely on acoustic communication to find mates, such as grasshoppers, are astonishingly accurate in recognizing song patterns that are specific to their own species1,2. This raises the question of whether they can also solve a far more complicated task that might provide a basis for mate preference and sexual selection: to distinguish individual songs by detecting slight variations around the common species-specific theme. Using spike-train discriminability to quantify the precision of neural responses from the auditory periphery of a model grasshopper species, we show that information sufficient to distinguish songs is readily available at the single-cell level when the spike trains are analyzed on a millisecond time scale.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Acoustic communication signals, artificial songs and sample responses.
Figure 2: Analysis of single neuron responses.

References

  1. von Helversen, O. & von Helversen, D. in Neural Basis of Behavioural Adaptations (eds. Schildberger, K. & Elsner, N.) 253–284 (Gustav Fischer, Stuttgart, 1994).

    Google Scholar 

  2. von Helversen, O. & von Helversen, D. J. Comp. Physiol. A 180, 373–386 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Haykin, S. Communication Systems (Wiley, New York, 1994).

    Google Scholar 

  4. van Rossum, M. Neural Comp. 13, 751–763 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Machens, C.K. et al. J. Neurosci. 21, 3215–3227 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Mainen, Z.F. & Sejnowski, T.J. Science 268, 1503–1506 (1995).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Kriegbaum, H. & von Helversen, O. Ethology 76, 248–254 (1992).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Victor, J.D. & Purpura, K.P. Netw. Comput. Neural Syst. 8, 127–164 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank D. and O. von Helversen for providing the grasshopper songs, J. Benda for discussions and technical support and T. Fitch, F. Gabbiani, D. Krakauer and H. Wagner for critically reading an earlier manuscript version. This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (through Innovationskolleg Theoretische Biologie, SFB 618and Graduiertenkolleg 120).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andreas V. M. Herz.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Machens, C., Schütze, H., Franz, A. et al. Single auditory neurons rapidly discriminate conspecific communication signals. Nat Neurosci 6, 341–342 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1036

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1036

This article is cited by

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing