Delay-tuned neurons in the inferior colliculus of the mustached bat: implications for analyses of target distance

J Neurophysiol. 1999 Sep;82(3):1326-38. doi: 10.1152/jn.1999.82.3.1326.


We examined response properties of delay-tuned neurons in the central nucleus of the inferior colliculus (ICC) of the mustached bat. In the mustached bat, delay-tuned neurons respond best to the combination of the first-harmonic, frequency-modulated (FM1) sweep in the emitted pulse and a higher harmonic frequency-modulated (FM2, FM3 or FM4) component in returning echoes and are referred to as FM-FM neurons. We also examined H1-CF2 neurons. H1-CF2 neurons responded to simultaneous presentation of the first harmonic (H1) in the emitted pulse and the second constant frequency (CF2) component in returning echoes. These neurons served as a comparison as they are thought to encode different features of sonar targets than FM-FM neurons. Only 7% of our neurons (14/198) displayed a single excitatory tuning curve. The rest of the neurons (184) displayed complex responses to sounds in two separate frequency bands. The majority (51%, 101) of neurons were facilitated by the combination of specific components in the mustached bat's vocalizations. Twenty-five percent showed purely inhibitory interactions. The remaining neurons responded to two separate frequencies, without any facilitation or inhibition. FM-FM neurons (69) were facilitated by the FM1 component in the simulated pulse and a higher harmonic FM component in simulated echoes, provided the high-frequency signal was delayed the appropriate amount. The delay producing maximal facilitation ("best delay") among FM-FM neurons ranged between 0 and 20 ms, corresponding to target distances </=3.4 m. Sharpness of delay tuning varied among FM-FM neurons with 50% delay widths between 2 and 13 ms. On average, the facilitated responses of FM-FM neurons were 104% greater than the sum of the responses to the two signals alone. In comparing response properties of delay-tuned, FM-FM neurons in the ICC with those in the medial geniculate body (MGB) from other studies, we find that the range of best delays, sharpness of delay tuning and strength of facilitation are similar in the ICC and MGB. This suggests that by the level of the IC, the basic response properties of FM-FM neurons are established, and they do not undergo extensive transformations with ascending auditory processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Inferior Colliculi / cytology
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology