Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Auditory responses in the amygdala to social vocalizations
by Gadziola, Marie A., Ph.D., Kent State University, 2013, 179; 3618891
Abstract (Summary)

The underlying goal of this dissertation is to understand how the amygdala, a brain region involved in establishing the emotional significance of sensory input, contributes to the processing of complex sounds. The general hypothesis is that communication calls of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) transmit relevant information about social context that is reflected in the activity of amygdalar neurons.

The first specific aim analyzed social vocalizations emitted under a variety of behavioral contexts, and related vocalizations to an objective measure of internal physiological state by monitoring the heart rate of vocalizing bats. These experiments revealed a complex acoustic communication system among big brown bats in which acoustic cues and call structure signal the emotional state of a sender.

The second specific aim characterized the responsiveness of single neurons in the basolateral amygdala to a range of social syllables. Neurons typically respond to the majority of tested syllables, but effectively discriminate among vocalizations by varying the response duration. This novel coding strategy underscores the importance of persistent firing in the general functioning of the amygdala.

The third specific aim examined the influence of acoustic context by characterizing both the behavioral and neurophysiological responses to natural vocal sequences. Vocal sequences differentially modify the internal affective state of a listening bat, with lower aggression vocalizations evoking the greatest change in heart rate. Amygdalar neurons employ two different coding strategies: low background neurons respond selectively to very few stimuli, whereas high background neurons respond broadly to stimuli but demonstrate variation in response magnitude and timing. Neurons appear to discriminate the valence of stimuli, with aggression sequences evoking robust population-level responses across all sound levels. Further, vocal sequences show improved discrimination among stimuli compared to isolated syllables, and this improved discrimination is expressed in part by the timing of action potentials.

Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that big brown bat social vocalizations transmit relevant information about the social context that is encoded within the discharge pattern of amygdalar neurons ultimately responsible for coordinating appropriate social behaviors. I further propose that vocalization-evoked amygdalar activity will have significant impact on subsequent sensory processing and plasticity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wenstrup, Jeffrey J.
Commitee: Jasnow, Aaron, Schofield, Brett, Sivaramakrishnan, Shobhana, Thewissen, J.G.M. Hans
School: Kent State University
Department: Biomedical Sciences
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-B 75/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Neurosciences, Neurobiology, Communication, Behavioral Sciences, Physiology, Acoustics
Keywords: Acoustic communication, Bat, Electrocardiogram, Eptesicus fuscus, Heart rate, Persistent firing
Publication Number: 3618891
ISBN: 978-1-303-87438-3
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