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Annu Rev Neurosci. 2019 Jul 8;42:129-147. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-080317-061839. Epub 2019 Feb 20.

Acoustic Pattern Recognition and Courtship Songs: Insights from Insects.

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Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA; email:
University Medical Center Goettingen, Max-Planck-Society, European Neuroscience Institute, D-37077 Goettingen, Germany; email:


Across the animal kingdom, social interactions rely on sound production and perception. From simple cricket chirps to more elaborate bird songs, animals go to great lengths to communicate information critical for reproduction and survival via acoustic signals. Insects produce a wide array of songs to attract a mate, and the intended receivers must differentiate these calls from competing sounds, analyze the quality of the sender from spectrotemporal signal properties, and then determine how to react. Insects use numerically simple nervous systems to analyze and respond to courtship songs, making them ideal model systems for uncovering the neural mechanisms underlying acoustic pattern recognition. We highlight here how the combination of behavioral studies and neural recordings in three groups of insects-crickets, grasshoppers, and fruit flies-reveals common strategies for extracting ethologically relevant information from acoustic patterns and how these findings might translate to other systems.


animal communication; auditory circuits; auditory processing; courtship songs; temporal pattern recognition

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