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Behav Brain Res. 1998 Mar;91(1-2):29-39.

Categorical discrimination of direction in frequency-modulated tones by Mongolian gerbils.

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Federal Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany.


Discrimination of the direction of linearly frequency-modulated tones (FMs) was investigated in adult Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) using a footshock motivated shuttle box avoidance go/no go procedure. Symmetric pairs of FMs with frequency linearly increasing with time (ascending FMs) and with frequency linearly decreasing with time (descending FMs) were used as conditioned stimuli, CS+ and CS-, respectively. Stimuli were presented in randomized order in daily sessions over a period of several months. After a number of sessions, the set of conditioned stimuli was changed with respect to frequency range, steepness of modulation and duration. In experiment 1, we observed that gerbils could discriminate between the ascending 2-4 kHz CS+ and the descending 4-2 kHz CS- after a training period of 10-15 days. In experiment 2, we used FM pairs of six other frequency ranges in successive sessions (6-13; 1-2; 13-25; 0.5-1; 3 6; 0.25 0.5 kHz). We found that in the final session the last FM pair (0.25-0.5 kHz) was discriminated already after 3-4 days. Experiment 3 showed that the animals were able to discriminate five of the FM pairs learned in the separate sessions of experiment 2 (i.e. 10 different stimuli) when they were given in randomized order during one training session. In experiment 4, novel FM pairs (not heard before) and familiar FM pairs (trained in experiments 1-3) were presented within one session. It was found that, except for FMs of very short duration and small frequency range, novel FMs were discriminated according to their modulation direction. These results show that Mongolian gerbils are able to discriminate FM tones by modulation direction and, after familiarization with a number of different FM pairs, transfer the ascending-descending concept to stimuli not heard before.

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