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Steroid-Dependent Auditory Plasticity Leads to Adaptive Coupling of Sender and Receiver

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Science  16 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5682, pp. 404-407
DOI: 10.1126/science.1097218

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Abstract

For seasonally breeding vertebrates, reproductive cycling is often coupled with changes in vocalizations that function in courtship and territoriality. Less is known about changes in auditory sensitivity to those vocalizations. Here, we show that nonreproductive female midshipman fish treated with either testosterone or 17β-estradiol exhibit an increase in the degree of temporal encoding of the frequency content of male vocalizations by the inner ear that mimics the reproductive female's auditory phenotype. This sensory plasticity provides an adaptable mechanism that enhances coupling between sender and receiver in vocal communication.

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