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Processing of multimodal information is essential for an organism to respond to environmental events. However, how multimodal integration in neurons translates into behavior is far from clear. Here, we investigate integration of biologically relevant visual and auditory information in the goldfish startle escape system in which paired Mauthner-cells (M-cells) initiate the behavior. Sound pips and visual looms as well as multimodal combinations of these stimuli were tested for their effectiveness of evoking the startle response. Results showed that adding a low intensity sound early during a visual loom (low visual effectiveness) produced a supralinear increase in startle responsiveness as compared to an increase expected from a linear summation of the two unimodal stimuli. In contrast, adding a sound pip late during the loom (high visual effectiveness) increased responsiveness consistent with a linear multimodal integration of the two stimuli. Together the results confirm the Inverse Effectiveness Principle (IEP) of multimodal integration proposed in other species. Given the well-established role of the M-cell as a multimodal integrator, these results suggest that IEP is computed in individual neurons that initiate vital behavioral decisions.


This article was originally published in Frontiers in Neural Circuits, available at DOI: 10.3389/fncir.2019.00007.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).


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