Studies with echolocating odontocetes have suggested that forms of automatic gain control mediate auditory electrophysiological responses to target-related echoes. This study used a phantom echo generator and auditory evoked potential measurements to examine automatic gain control in a bottlenose dolphin. Auditory evoked potentials to outgoing clicks and incoming echoes were recorded for simulated ranges from 2.5 to 80 m. When geometric spreading loss was simulated, echo-evoked potential amplitudes were essentially constant up to 14 m and progressively decreased with increasing range. When the echo levels were held constant relative to clicks, echo-evoked potential amplitudes increased with increasing range up to 80 m. These results suggest that automatic gain control maintains distance-independent echo-evoked potential amplitudes at close range, but does not fully compensate for attenuation due to spreading loss at longer ranges. The automatic gain control process appears to arise from an interaction of transmitter and receiver based processes, resulting in a short-range region of distance-independent echo-evoked potential amplitudes for relevant targets, and a longer-range region in which echo-evoked potential amplitudes are reduced.

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