Original Paper

Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 191, Issue 6, pp 535-546

First online:

Serotonin modulates responses to species-specific vocalizations in the inferior colliculus

  • Laura M. HurleyAffiliated withJordan Hall/ Biology Department, Indiana University Email author 
  • , George D. PollakAffiliated withUniversity of Texas

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Neuromodulators such as serotonin are capable of altering the neural processing of stimuli across many sensory modalities. In the inferior colliculus, a major midbrain auditory gateway, serotonin alters the way that individual neurons respond to simple tone bursts and linear frequency modulated sweeps. The effects of serotonin are complex, and vary among neurons. How serotonin transforms the responses to spectrotemporally complex sounds of the type normally heard in natural settings has been poorly examined. To explore this issue further, the effects of iontophoretically applied serotonin on the responses of individual inferior colliculus neurons to a variety of recorded species-specific vocalizations were examined. These experiments were performed in the Mexican free-tailed bat, a species that uses a rich repertoire of vocalizations for the purposes of communication as well as echolocation. Serotonin frequently changed the number of recorded calls that were capable of evoking a response from individual neurons, sometimes increasing (15% of serotonin-responsive neurons), but usually decreasing (62% of serotonin-responsive neurons), this number. A functional consequence of these serotonin-evoked changes would be to change the population response to species-specific vocalizations.


Serotonin Inferior colliculus Free-tailed bat Vocalization Neuromodulator