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J Comput Neurosci. 1999 Mar-Apr;6(2):121-44.

A connectionist model of left-right sound discrimination by the Mauthner system.

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Department of Cognitive Science, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


Artificial neural networks were used to explore the auditory function of the Mauthner system, the brainstem circuit in teleost fishes that initiates fast-start escape responses. The artificial neural networks were trained with backpropagation to assign connectivity and receptive fields in an architecture consistent with the known anatomy of the Mauthner system. Our first goal was to develop neurally specific hypotheses for how the Mauthner system discriminates right from left in the onset of a sound. Our model was consistent with the phase model for directional hearing underwater, the prevalent theory for sound source localization by fishes. Our second goal was to demonstrate how the neural mechanisms that permit sound localization according to the phase model can coexist with the mechanisms that permit the Mauthner system to discriminate between stimuli based on amplitude. Our results indicate possible computational roles for elements of the Mauthner system, which has provided us a theoretical context within which to consider past and future experiments on the cellular physiology. Thus, these findings demonstrate the potential significance of this approach in generating experimentally testable hypotheses for small systems of identified cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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