Mauthner cells receive neurally coded information from the otolith organs in fishes, and it is most likely that initiation and directional characteristics of the C-start response depend on this input. In the goldfish, saccular afferents are sensitive to sound pressure (< –30 dB re: 1 dyne cm-2) in the most sensitive frequency range (200 to 800 Hz). This input arises from volume fluctuations of the swimbladder in response to the sound pressure waveform and is thus nondirectional. Primary afferents of the saccule, lagena, and utricle of the goldfish also respond with great sensitivity to acoustic particle motion (< 1 nanometer between 100 and 200 Hz). This input arises from the acceleration of the fish in a sound field and is inherently directional. Saccular afferents can be divided into two groups based on their tuning: one group is tuned at about 250 Hz, and the other tuned between 400 Hz and 1 kHz. All otolithic primary afferents phase-lock to sinusoids throughout the frequency range of hearing (up to about 2 kHz). Based on physiological and behavioral studies on Mauthner cells, it appears that highly correlated binaural input to the M-cell, from the sacculi responding to sound pressure, may be required for a decision to respond but that the direction of the response is extracted from small deviations from a perfect interaural correlation arising from the directional response of otolith organs to acoustic particle motion.

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