Published on Thu Aug 19 2021

Audiovisual integration in the Mauthner cell enhances escape probability and reduces response latency

Martorell, N., Medan, V.

In goldfish visual looms and brief auditory stimuli can be integrated to increase C-start probability. This enhancement is inversely correlated to the saliency of the cues. We also show that multisensory stimuli reduce response latency locked to the presentation of the auditory cue.

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Abstract

Fast and accurate threat detection is critically important for animal survival. Reducing perceptual ambiguity by integrating multiple sources of sensory information can enhance threat detection and reduce response latency. However, studies showing a direct link between behavioral correlates of multisensory integration and its underlying neural basis are rare. In fish, an explosive escape behavior known as C-start is driven by an identified neural circuit centered on the Mauthner cell. The Mauthner cell can trigger C-starts in response to visual and auditory stimuli allowing to investigate how multisensory integration in a single neuron affects behavioral outcome after threat detection. Here we demonstrate that in goldfish visual looms and brief auditory stimuli can be integrated to increase C-start probability and that this enhancement is inversely correlated to the saliency of the cues with weaker auditory cues producing a proportionally stronger multisensory effect. We also show that multisensory stimuli reduce response latency locked to the presentation of the auditory cue. Finally, we make a direct link between behavioral data and its underlying neural mechanism by reproducing empirical data with an integrate-and-fire computational model of the Mauthner cell.