Neuroethology / Behavioural Physiology

Department of Biology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Prof. Dr. Matthias Hennig Researcher matthias.hennig (at) (remove) .de
Dr. Nora de Camp Postdoc (at) hu-be (remove)
Dr. Klaus-Gerhard Heller Guest Scientist kgheller (at) hu-berl (remove)


Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Department of Biology
Behavioural Physiology
Philippstr. 13, House 18
10115 Berlin

Phone: +49 (0)30 / 2093 49670

Neuroethology / Behavioural Physiology

The way an animal perceives the world depends on information gathered by its senses which will then guide its behavioural actions. Our research targets the computational principles and neuronal mechanisms by which sensory pathways extract relevant information from the environment. We then ask how this information is used for decision making and appropriate motor action. As a model system we investigate the acoustic communication behaviour of crickets that evolved in the context of attracting and localizing mates. A particular advantage of insects as research objects lies first in their limited repertoire of behavioural actions and second in the relative ease by which the activity of single neurons and small networks in the mini-brains of insects can be quantified. Using behavioural and electrophysiological approaches we aim to identify computational algorithms and to track their neuronal mechanisms. Based on a comparative approach across several genera we address the evolution of behavioural traits as well as their neuronal and genetic basis.

Techniques encompass a range of behavioural and neuro-physiological approaches. Extra- and intracellular recording and staining techniques of individual nerve cells are part of our standard repertoire. A suite of computer-controlled set-ups with high through-put technology allows us to quantify motor outputs as well as to measure behavioural preferences and decisions for a large number of individuals.


  1. Blankers T, Vilaca S, Waurick I, Gray D, Hennig M, Mazzoni C, Mayer F, Berdan E (2018) Demography and selection shape transcriptomic divergence in field crickets. Evolution (in press)
  2. Erreger B, Hennig RM, Römer H (2018) The ‚hot male‘ hypothesis: do female crickets prefer males with increased body temperature in mate choice scenarios ? Anim Behav 138, 75-84
  3. Blankers T, Block R, Hennig RM (2017) Codivergence but Limited Covariance of Wing Shape and Calling Song Structure in Field Crickets (Gryllus). Evol Biol,
  4. Bailey NW, Moran P, Hennig RM (2017) Divergent Mechanisms of Acoustic Mate Recognition Between Closely-Related Field Cricket Species (Teleogryllus spp.). Anim Behav 130, 17-25
  5. Gray DA, Gabel E, Blankers T, Hennig RM (2016) Multivariate female preference tests reveal latent perceptual biases. Proc Roy Soc B (in press)
  6. Gabel E, Vural P, Mariot L, Hennig RM (2016) A gain control mechanism governs the weighting of acoustic signal intensity and attractiveness during female decisions. Anim Behav (in press)
  7. Hennig RM (2016) Dissecting the contribution of sensory cues to directional responses by female crickets in a two-loudspeaker paradigm. J Insect Behav 29: 666 - 679, DOI: 10.1007/s10905-016-9588-7
  8. Blankers T, Gray DA, Hennig RM (2016) Multivariate phenotypic evolution: divergent acoustic signals and sexual selection in Gryllus field crickets. J Evol Biol, DOI 10.1007/s11692-016-9388-1
  9. Gabel E, Gray DA, Hennig RM (2016) How females of chirping and trilling field crickets integrate the ‚what‘ and ‚where‘ of male acoustic signals during decision making. J Comp Physiol A, 202: 823 - 837
  10. Hennig RM, Blankers T, Gray D (2016): Divergence in male cricket song and female preference functions in three allopatric sister species. J Comp Physiol A 202: 347 - 360
  11. Gabel, E, Hennig, RM (2016): Evidence for comparative decision making in female crickets. Behav. Ecol. DOI:10.1093/beheco/arw030
  12. Göpfert MC, Hennig RM. (2016) Hearing in Insects. Annu Rev Entomol. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-ento-010715-023631
  13. Rau F, Clemens J, Naumov V, Hennig RM, Schreiber S (2015) Firing-rate resonances in the peripheral auditory system of the cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus. J Comp Physiol A 201:1075-90
  14. Clemens J, Rau F, Hennig RM, Hildebrandt KJ (2015) Context-dependent coding and gain control in the auditory system of crickets. Eur J Neurosci. 42:2390-406
  15. Gabel E, Kuntze J, Hennig RM. (2015) Decision making and preferences for acoustic signals in choice situations by female crickets. J Exp Biol. 218:2641-50.
  16. Blankers T, Luebke AK, Hennig RM (2015) Phenotypic variation and covariation indicate high evolvability of acoustic communication in crickets. J Evol Biol. DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12686
  17. Blankers T, Hennig RM, Gray DA (2015) Conservation of multivariate female preference functions and preference mechanisms in three species of trilling field crickets. J Evol Biol. 28:630-641
  18. Hildebrandt KJ, Ronacher B, Hennig RM, Benda J (2015): A neural mechanism for time-window separation resolves ambiguity of adaptive coding. PLoS Biol. 13(3): e1002096. doi:10.1371/ journal.pbio.1002096
  19. Hildebrandt KJ, Benda J, Hennig RM (2015) Computational themes of peripheral processing in the auditory pathway of insects. J Comp Physiol A 201:39-50
  20. Ronacher B, Hennig RM, Clemens J (2015) Computational principles underlying recognition of acoustic signals in grasshoppers and crickets. J Comp Physiol A 201:61-71
  21. Hennig RM, Ronacher B (2014) Auditory processing in insects. In: Encyclopedia of Computational Neurosciences. Eds: D Jaeger, R Jung. Springer Press
  22. Hennig RM, Heller KG, Clemens J (2014) Time and timing in the acoustic recognition system of crickets. Front Physiol. 2014 Aug 12;5:286. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00286
  23. Clemens J, Hennig RM (2013) Computational principles underlying the recognition of acoustic signals in insects. J Comp Neurosci 35: 75 - 85
  24. Meckenhäuser G, Hennig RM, Nawrot MP (2013) Critical song features for auditory pattern recognition in crickets. PLoS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055349
  25. Rothbart MM, Hennig RM (2012) Calling song signals and temporal preference functions in the cricket Teleogryllus leo. J Comp Physiol A 198, 817 - 825
  26. Rothbart MM, Hennig RM (2012) The Steppengrille (Gryllus spec./assimilis): selective filters and signal mismatch on two time scales. PLoS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043975
  27. Grobe B, Rothbart MM, Hanschke A, Hennig RM (2012) Auditory processing at two time scales by the cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus. J Exp Biol 215, 1681 - 1690
  28. Schneider E, Hennig RM (2012) Temporal resolution for calling song signals by female crickets, Gryllus bimaculatus. J Comp Physiol A 198, 181 - 191
  29. Hildebrandt KJ, Benda J, Hennig RM (2011) Multiple arithmetic operations in a single neuron: the recruitment of adaptation processes in the cricket auditory pathway depends on sensory context. J Neurosci 31, 14142 - 14150
  30. Einhäupl A, Stange N, Hennig RM, Ronacher B (2011) Attractiveness of grasshopper songs correlates with their robustness against noise. Behav Ecol 22, 791 - 799
  31. Hennig RM (2009) Walking in Fourier's space: algorithms for the computation of periodicities in song patterns by the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus. J Comp Physiol A 195, 971 - 987
  32. Hildebrandt KJ, Benda J, Hennig RM (2009) The Origin of Adaptation in the Auditory Pathway of Locusts is Specific to Cell Type and Function. J Neuroscience 29, 2626 - 2636
  33. Kostarakos K, Hennig RM, Römer H (2009) Two matched filters and the evolution of mating signals in four species of cricket. Front. Zool 6, 22; doi:10.1186/1742-9994-6-22
  34. Granada A, Hennig RM, Ronacher B, Kramer A, Herzel HP (2009) Phase Response Curves: Elucidating the dynamics of coupled oscillators. Methods in Enzymology 454, 1 - 27
  35. Benda J, Hennig RM (2008) Spike-frequency adaptation generates intensity invariance in a primary auditory interneuron. J Comput Neurosci 24: 113-136
  36. Wimmer K, Hildebrandt KJ, Hennig RM, Obermayer K (2008) Adaptation and Selective Information Transmission in the Cricket Auditory Neuron AN2. PLoS Comput Biol, 4(9): e1000182. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000182
  37. Schmidt A, Ronacher B, Hennig RM (2007) The role of frequency, phase and time for processing of amplitude modulated signals by grasshoppers. J Comp Physiol A 194:221-33
  38. Vogel A, Hennig RM, Ronacher B (2005) Increase of neuronal response variability at higher processing levels as revealed by simultaneous recordings. J Neurophysiol 93, 3548 - 3559
  39. Ronacher B, Hennig RM (2004): Neuronal adaptation improves the recognition of temporal patterns in a grasshopper. J Comp Physiol A 190, 311-319
  40. Fonseca PJ, Hennig RM (2004) Directional characteristics of the auditory system of cicadas: the sound producing tymbal as an integral part of directional hearing? Physiol Entomol 29, 400 - 408
  41. Hennig RM, Franz A, Stumpner A (2004) Auditory processing in insects. Micr Res Techn 63, 351 - 374
  42. Ronacher B, Franz A, Wohlgemuth S, Hennig RM (2004) Variability of spike trains and the processing of temporal patterns of acoustic signals - problems, constraints, and solutions. J Comp Physiol A 190, 257-277
  43. Hennig RM (2003) Acoustic feature extraction by cross-correlation in crickets? J Comp Physiol A 189, 589 - 598
  44. Benda J, Bethge M, Hennig RM, Pawelzik K, Herz AVM (2001): Spike-Frequency Adaptation: Phenomenological Model and Experimental Tests. Neurocomputing 38-40, 105-110
  45. Fonseca PJ, Münch D, Hennig RM (2000) How cicadas interpret acoustic signals. Nature 405, 297 - 298
  46. Ronacher B, Krahe R, Hennig RM (2000) Effects of signal duration on the recognition of masked communication signals by a grasshopper. J Comp Physiol A 186, 1065 - 1072
  47. Otte D, Hennig RM (1998) A new species of Damaracheta from South Africa. J Ortohoptera Res 7, 241 - 243
  48. Daws AG, Hennig RM, Young D (1997) Phonotaxis in the cicadas Cystosoma saundersii and Cyclochila australasiae. Bioacoustics 7, 173 - 188.
  49. Hennig RM, Weber T (1997) Filtering of temporal parameters of the calling song by cricket females of two closely related species: a behavioral analysis. J Comp Physiol A 180, 621 - 630
  50. Fonseca PJ, Hennig RM (1996) Phasic action of the tensor muscle modulates the calling song in cicadas. J Exp Biol 199, 1535 - 1544.
  51. Paripovic I, Hennig RM, Otto D (1996) Abdominal ventilatory pattern in crickets depends on the stridulatory motor pattern. Physiol Entomol 21, 223-230
  52. Hennig RM, Otto D (1996) Distributed control of song pattern generation in crickets revealed by lesions to the thoracic ganglia. Zoology 99, 268 - 276
  53. Hennig RM, Weber T, Huber F, Kleindienst H.U., Moore TE,, Popov AV (1994) Auditory threshold change in singing cicadas. J Exp Biol 187, 45-55
  54. Hennig RM, Weber T, Huber F, Moore TE, Kleindienst HU, Popov AV (1993). A new function for an old structure: the 'timbal muscle' in cicada females. Naturwissenschaften 80, 324-326
  55. Hennig RM, Weber T, Moore TE, Huber F, Kleindienst HU, Popov AV (1994). Function of the tensor muscle in the cicada Tibicen linnei. J Exp Biol 187, 33-44.
  56. Otto D, Hennig RM (1993) Interneurons descending from the cricket subesophageal ganglion control stridulation and ventilation. Naturwissenschaften 80, 36 - 38
  57. Hennig RM (1992) Mechanisms of motor pattern switching in crickets: stridulation and flight. in: Neurobiology of motor programme selection - New approaches to the study of behavioural choice. eds.: Kien J, McCrohan CR, Winlow W, Pergamon Press, Oxford, pp. 105 - 122
  58. Hennig, RM (1990) Neuronal control of the forewings in two different behaviours: Stridulation and flight in the cricket Teleogryllus commodus. J Comp Physiol A 167, 617 - 627
  59. Hennig, RM (1990) Neuronal organisation of the flight motor pattern in the cricket, Teleogryllus commodus. J Comp Physiol A 167, 629 - 630
  60. Hennig, RM (1989) Neuromuscular activity during stridulation in the cricket Teleogryllus commodus J Comp Physiol A 165: 837-846
  61. Hennig, RM (1988) Ascending auditory interneurons in the cricket Teleogryllus commodus: comparative physiology and direct connections with afferents. J Comp Physiol A 163, 135 - 143