The Perception of Auditory Illusions by Birds and Mammals
The coding of information in the vertebrate
nervous system is central to our understanding of complex behaviors.
Animal models have been particularly useful in elucidating the
mechanisms and limits of information coding in the auditory domain.
Some of the most fertile examples come from animals with "specialized" auditory
systems such as barn owls, echolocating bats, and cats. Much less
is known, however, about how auditory "nonspecialists" are able
to effectively communicate. Parrots and songbirds are highly
social and vocal animals; therefore, acoustic communication is
very important for everyday survival. A great deal of behavioral
and physiological research has been conducted on how birds learn
and use their vocalizations, yet much less is known about what
the environment does to these vocalizations and how birds deal
with the environmental problems at the receiving end of the communication
pathway. Here, results from several behavioral experiments on
complex sound perception and auditory illusions in birds will
be discussed and compared with behavioral and physiological results
from humans and non-human mammals. These experiments demonstrate
a remarkable similarity in how birds deal with complex environments
despite large differences in evolutionary histories, lifestyles,
and anatomical structures for hearing.