Behind the mask(ing): how frogs cope with noise

Norman Lee, Alejandro Vélez, Mark Bee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Albert Feng was a pioneer in the field of auditory neuroethology who used frogs to investigate the neural basis of spectral and temporal processing and directional hearing. Among his many contributions was connecting neural mechanisms for sound pattern recognition and localization to the problems of auditory masking that frogs encounter when communicating in noisy, real-world environments. Feng’s neurophysiological studies of auditory processing foreshadowed and inspired subsequent behavioral investigations of auditory masking in frogs. For frogs, vocal communication frequently occurs in breeding choruses, where males form dense aggregations and produce loud species-specific advertisement calls to attract potential mates and repel competitive rivals. In this review, we aim to highlight how Feng’s research advanced our understanding of how frogs cope with noise. We structure our narrative around three themes woven throughout Feng’s research—spectral, temporal, and directional processing—to illustrate how frogs can mitigate problems of auditory masking by exploiting frequency separation between signals and noise, temporal fluctuations in noise amplitude, and spatial separation between signals and noise. We conclude by proposing future research that would build on Feng’s considerable legacy to advance our understanding of hearing and sound communication in frogs and other vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-66
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Much of the original research funding on hylid treefrogs reviewed here was funded by grants to MAB from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (R03DC008396 and R01DC009582) and the National Science Foundation (IOS-0842759, IOS-1452831). Preparation of this article was supported in part by grants to NL (IOS-2144831) and MAB (IOS-2022253) from the National Science Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Auditory scene analysis
  • Comodulation masking release
  • Energetic masking
  • Matched filtering
  • Spatial release from masking

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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