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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2013 Jun;199(6):471-8. doi: 10.1007/s00359-012-0773-7. Epub 2012 Nov 7.

Gain control in the sonar of odontocetes.

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Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Science, 33 Leninsky Prospect, 119071, Moscow, Russia,


The sonar of odontocetes processes echo-signals within a wide range of echo levels. The level of echoes varies widely by tens of decibels depending on the level of the emitted sonar pulse, the target strength, the distance to the target, and the sound absorption by the water media. The auditory system of odontocetes must be capable of effective perception, analysis, and discrimination of echo-signals within all this variability. The sonar of odontocetes has several mechanisms to compensate for the echo-level variation (gain control). To date, several mechanisms of the biosonar gain control have been revealed in odontocetes: (1) adjustment of emitted sonar pulse levels (the longer the distance to the target, the higher the level of the emitted pulse), (2) short-term variation of hearing sensitivity based on forward masking of the echo by the preceding self-heard emitted pulse and subsequent release from the masking, and (3) active long-term control of hearing sensitivity. Recent investigations with the use of the auditory evoked-potential technique have demonstrated that these mechanisms effectively minimize the variation of the response to the echo when either the emitted sonar pulse level, or the target distance, or both vary within a wide range. A short review of these data is presented herein.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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