Song pattern recognition in crickets based on a delay-line and coincidence-detector mechanism

11 Sep 2017

Acoustic communication requires filter mechanisms to process and recognize key features of the perceived signals. We analysed such a filter mechanism in field crickets (Gryllus bimaculatus), which communicate with species-specific repetitive patterns of sound pulses and chirps. A delay-line and coincidence-detection mechanism, in which each sound pulse has an impact on the processing of the following pulse, is implicated to underlie the recognition of the species-specific pulse pattern. Based on this concept, we hypothesized that altering the duration of a single pulse or inter-pulse interval in three-pulse chirps will lead to different behavioural responses. Phonotaxis was tested in female crickets walking on a trackball exposed to different sound paradigms. Changing the duration of either the first, second or third pulse of the chirps led to three different characteristic tuning curves. Long first pulses decreased the phonotactic response whereas phonotaxis remained strong when the third pulse was long. Chirps with three pulses of increasing duration of 5, 20 and 50 ms elicited phonotaxis, but the chirps were not attractive when played in reverse order. This demonstrates specific, pulse duration-dependent effects while sequences of pulses are processed. The data are in agreement with a mechanism in which processing of a sound pulse has an effect on the processing of the subsequent pulse, as outlined in the flow of activity in a delay-line and coincidence-detector circuit. Additionally our data reveal a substantial increase in the gain of phonotaxis, when the number of pulses of a chirp is increased from two to three.