In resting tethered locusts, the effect of slow changes in tracheal air pressure on peripheral auditory information processing was analysed. The tympanal membrane vibrations, the pressure inside the tracheal system and the summed activity of the auditory receptors were measured simultaneously. With the membrane in the resting position, laser vibrometry and Fast Fourier Transformation analysis of sound-induced membrane vibrations demonstrated characteristic power spectra at the attachment sites of the high-frequency and low-frequency receptors. The spectra were different above 9 kHz, but very similar in the range 2­9 kHz. During ventilation, tracheal pressure changed between -500 and 1500 Pa. This caused tympanal membrane peak-to-peak displacements in the range 70­90 µm outwards and 20­30 µm inwards, as measured by means of laser interferometry. For a quantitative analysis, sinusoidal tympanal membrane displacements with amplitudes such as those during natural ventilation could be induced by applying pressure to the tracheal system. There was a sigmoid relationship between the tracheal pressure and the corresponding membrane displacement. Outward displacements of the tympanal membrane at the attachment site of the elevated process (a-cells) attenuated sound-induced membrane vibrations in the ranges 2­10 kHz and 14­22 kHz and increased them in the ranges 10­14 kHz and 22­25 kHz. At the pyriform vesicle (d-cells), the vibration sensitivity was reduced in the frequency range 2­14 kHz. Sensitivity was enhanced in the range 14­25 kHz. As a consequence, the detection of acoustic signals was also influenced at the auditory receptor level. Tympanal membrane displacements during acoustic stimulation with 4 kHz sound pulses decreased the summed receptor response by approximately 15 dB. At 16 kHz, an increase of the response equivalent to 7 dB occurred. The effect on the response to white noise was intermediate.

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