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J Exp Biol. 2011 Nov 1;214(Pt 21):3596-604. doi: 10.1242/jeb.054445.

Sound-induced tympanal membrane motion in bushcrickets and its relationship to sensory output.

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Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, AK Neurobiology and Biosensors, Max-von-Laue-Strasse 13, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, 60438, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


In the auditory system of bushcrickets, sound can reach the receptors via two different paths: (i) by acting on the outside of the tympana situated on both sides of each foreleg or (ii) through the acoustic trachea that opens at a spiracle on the thorax. While the spiracle is considered to be the main point of sound entry for higher audio and ultrasonic frequencies, the role of the tympana is still unclear. The tympana border the air-filled acoustic trachea as well as the fluid-filled haemolymph channel containing the receptor organs. To understand their role during sound transduction, the sound-induced neuronal response of the hearing organ was recorded in combination with measurement of tympanal membrane motion using laser-Doppler vibrometry. For far-field stimulation, the frequency of the most sensitive hearing (∼16 kHz) matched the frequency of a pronounced maximum of tympanal membrane vibration. A second maximum of tympanum motion at lower frequencies (∼7 kHz) was correlated with an increased nerve activity at higher intensities (>70 dB sound pressure level, SPL). These correlations support the hypothesis of functional coupling between tympanum motion and nerve activity. When sound stimuli were applied locally, through either the tympanum or the spiracle, significant differences between tympanum motion and nerve activity were found. These discrepancies show that tympanum motion and neuronal response are not coupled directly and that there is no linear relationship with the applied SPL. Taken together, these data verify a functional, albeit indirect, coupling of tympanum motion and sensory cell activity for one of the pronounced vibration maxima, which appears to represent a resonance frequency of the tympanum.

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