The timescale-invariant recognition of temporal stimulus sequences is vital for many species and poses a challenge for their sensory systems. Here we present a simple mechanistic model to address this computational task, based on recent observations in insects that use rhythmic acoustic communication signals for mate finding. In the model framework, feedforward inhibition leads to burst-like response patterns in one neuron of the circuit. Integrating these responses over a fixed time window by a readout neuron creates a timescale-invariant stimulus representation. Only two additional processing channels, each with a feature detector and a readout neuron, plus one final coincidence detector for all three parallel signal streams, are needed to account for the behavioral data. In contrast to previous solutions to the general time-warp problem, no time delay lines or sophisticated neural architectures are required. Our results suggest a new computational role for feedforward inhibition and underscore the power of parallel signal processing.

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