Song pattern recognition in the grasshopper Chorthippus biguttulus: the mechanism of syllable onset and offset detection
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The male song of the duetting grasshopper Chorthippus biguttulus consists of syllables alternating with noisy pauses. The syllable-pause structure is important for song recognition by the female. Using playback experiments we investigated the mechanism by which intensity modulations within the song pattern are used to detect syllable onsets and offsets. We varied the relative onset level (level of the syllable beginning relative to the noisy pause) and the relative offset level (level of the noisy pause relative to the syllable end) independently in different experiments. For all females, an increase in intensity defining the syllable onset was necessary to evoke responses. Syllable offset cues were not always necessary: some females responded to continuous noise stimuli wherein only syllable onsets were marked by short pulses of high intensity. Those females that did not require syllable offset cues did not, however, lack a functional pause detection mechanism, since their responses to model songs containing silent pauses were restricted to a given range of pause durations. We propose that syllable-pause detection involves two independent processes: (1) syllable onset detection by a phasic neuronal unit that can be re-activated only after a short pause, and (2) the rejection of unacceptably long pauses by a second unit.
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