Many noctuid moth species perceive ultrasound via tympanic ears that are located at the metathorax. Whereas the neural processing of auditory information is well studied at the peripheral and first synaptic level, little is known about the features characterizing higher order sound-sensitive neurons in the moth brain. During intracellular recordings from the lateral protocerebrum in the brain of three noctuid moth species, Heliothis virescens, Helicoverpa armigera and Helicoverpa assulta, we found an assembly of neurons responding to transient sound pulses of broad bandwidth. The majority of the auditory neurons ascended from the ventral cord and ramified densely within the anterior region of the ventro-lateral protocerebrum. The physiological and morphological characteristics of these auditory neurons were similar. We detected one additional sound-sensitive neuron, a brain interneuron with its soma positioned near the calyces of mushroom bodies and with numerous neuronal processes in the ventro-lateral protocerebrum. Mass-staining of ventral-cord neurons supported the assumption that the ventro-lateral region of the moth brain was the main target for the auditory projections ascending from the ventral cord.
Cell and Tissue Research, 2014, Vol 355, Issue 2, p. 289-302