November 24, 2020

Sex-specific speed-accuracy tradeoffs shape neural processing of acoustic signals

Speed-accuracy tradeoffs – being fast at the risk of being wrong – are fundamental to many decisions and natural selection is expected to resolve these tradeoffs according to the costs and benefits of behavior. We here test the prediction that females and males should integrate information from courtship signals differently because they experience different payoffs along the speed-accuracy continuum. We fitted a neural model of decision making to behavioral data to determine the parameters of temporal integration of acoustic directional information used by male grasshoppers to locate receptive females. The model revealed that males had a low threshold for initiating a turning response, yet a large integration time constant enabled them to continue to gather information when cues were weak. This contrasts with parameters estimated for females of the same species when evaluating potential mates, in which thresholds for response were much higher and behavior was strongly influenced by unattractive stimuli. Our results reveal differences in neural integration consistent with the sex-specific costs of mate search: Males often face competition and need to be fast, females often pay high error costs and need to be deliberate.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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