BME Seminar on November 14th

University of Rochester
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Seminar Series

The Mating Songs of Crickets, Mosquitoes, and Spiders: Hearing with micro- and nano-scale ears

Ron Hoy, Ph.D.
Department of Neurobiology & Behavior
Cornell University

Tuesday, November 14
8:30 am

River Campus
Robert B. Goergen Hall
Sloan Auditorium, Room 101

Short Bio:

I have an active research career in the area of comparative bioacoustics, auditory neuroscience, and model systems for the study of seizure disorders in the nervous system. I have an active teaching career in the field of neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and animal communication.


Continuation of studies on the neuroethology of acoustic communication in insects. This includes a study of the biophysics and neurophysiology of hearing, as well as an analysis of the behavioral response to salient acoustic signals. In particular, we study the mate calls, rivalry calls, and courtship calls that are produced by crickets and katydids. In addition, we are investigating the anti-predator reactions made by crickets in response to ultrasonic biosonar signals of insectivorous bats–an acoustic startle reaction in insects. We have shown that acoustic startle in insects shares many behavioral parallels with acoustic startle in mammals, including behavioral plasticity, such as habituation, sensitization, and the like. We are also investigating novel mechanisms of directional sensitivity that are a characteristic of some insectan hearing organs. In particular, we are investigating the tympanal hearing organ of parasitoid tachinid flies, which parasitize crickets and locate them by homing in on the cricket’s mating calls. In collaboration with Dr. Ron Miles, at Binghamton University, we have developed a engineering model of the fly’s ear that we hope to “biomimic” into a directionally-sensitive, minuscule microphone, which could be inserted into a hearing aid, thus conferring directional sensitivity to hearing aids, which is at present a shortcoming of hearing prosthesis.

We are also investigating the visual system of various species of flies, in particular those that also use hearing to direct their flight course (“steering”). We are interested in the interaction between visually guided steering and acoustically guided steering, with the aim of investigating how multimodal sensory information is processed by common motor pathways in the CNS. This is a “hot” topic in mammalian neurobiology and we feel that insights gained from insect systems will provide “models” of information processing that will be applicable to the more complex systems of mammals.

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