Latencies of click-evoked auditory responses in a harbor porpoise exceed the time interval between subsequent echolocation clicks

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Most auditory evoked potential (AEP) studies in echolocating toothed whales measure neural responses to outgoing clicks and returning echoes using short-latency auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) arising a few ms after acoustic stimuli. However, little is known about longer-latency cortical AEPs despite their relevance for understanding echo processing and auditory stream segregation. Here, we used a non-invasive AEP setup with low click repetition rates on a trained harbor porpoise to test the long-standing hypothesis that echo information from distant targets is completely processed before the next click is emitted. We reject this hypothesis by finding reliable click-related AEP peaks with latencies of 90 and 160 ms, which are longer than 99% of click intervals used by echolocating porpoises, demonstrating that some higher-order echo processing continues well after the next click emission even during slow clicking. We propose that some of the echo information, such as range to evasive prey, is used to guide vocal-motor responses within 50-100 ms, but that information used for discrimination and auditory scene analysis is processed more slowly, integrating information over many click-echo pairs. We conclude by showing theoretically that the identified long-latency AEPs may enable hearing sensitivity measurements at frequencies ten times lower than current ABR methods.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Pages (from-to)952-960
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Auditory system
  • Acoustics
  • Signal-to-noise ratio
  • Vocalization
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Animal echolocation
  • Audiology
  • Bioacoustics of mammals
  • Auditory perception
  • Auditory evoked potentials
  • Phocoena
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory
  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem
  • Cetacea
  • Echolocation


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