Temporally selective processing of communication signals by auditory midbrain neurons. Academic Article uri icon


  • Perception of the temporal structure of acoustic signals contributes critically to vocal signaling. In the aquatic clawed frog Xenopus laevis, calls differ primarily in the temporal parameter of click rate, which conveys sexual identity and reproductive state. We show here that an ensemble of auditory neurons in the laminar nucleus of the torus semicircularis (TS) of X. laevis specializes in encoding vocalization click rates. We recorded single TS units while pure tones, natural calls, and synthetic clicks were presented directly to the tympanum via a vibration-stimulation probe. Synthesized click rates ranged from 4 to 50 Hz, the rate at which the clicks begin to overlap. Frequency selectivity and temporal processing were characterized using response-intensity curves, temporal-discharge patterns, and autocorrelations of reduplicated responses to click trains. Characteristic frequencies ranged from 140 to 3,250 Hz, with minimum thresholds of -90 dB re 1 mm/s at 500 Hz and -76 dB at 1,100 Hz near the dominant frequency of female clicks. Unlike units in the auditory nerve and dorsal medullary nucleus, most toral units respond selectively to the behaviorally relevant temporal feature of the rate of clicks in calls. The majority of neurons (85%) were selective for click rates, and this selectivity remained unchanged over sound levels 10 to 20 dB above threshold. Selective neurons give phasic, tonic, or adapting responses to tone bursts and click trains. Some algorithms that could compute temporally selective receptive fields are described.

publication date

  • April 2011