Functional organization of the pallid bat auditory cortex: emphasis on binaural organization

J Neurophysiol. 2002 Jan;87(1):72-86. doi: 10.1152/jn.00226.2001.


This report maps the organization of the primary auditory cortex of the pallid bat in terms of frequency tuning, selectivity for behaviorally relevant sounds, and interaural intensity difference (IID) sensitivity. The pallid bat is unusual in that it localizes terrestrial prey by passively listening to prey-generated noise transients (1-20 kHz), while reserving high-frequency (<30 kHz) echolocation for obstacle avoidance. The functional organization of its auditory cortex reflects the need for specializations in echolocation and passive sound localization. Best frequencies were arranged tonotopically with a general increase in the caudolateral to rostromedial direction. Frequencies between 24 and 32 kHz were under-represented, resulting in hypertrophy of frequencies relevant for prey localization and echolocation. Most neurons (83%) tuned <30 kHz responded preferentially to broadband or band-pass noise over single tones. Most neurons (62%) tuned >30 kHz responded selectively or exclusively to the 60- to 30-kHz downward frequency-modulated (FM) sweep used for echolocation. Within the low-frequency region, neurons were placed in two groups that occurred in two separate clusters: those selective for low- or high-frequency band-pass noise and suppressed by broadband noise, and neurons that showed no preference for band-pass noise over broadband noise. Neurons were organized in homogeneous clusters with respect to their binaural response properties. The distribution of binaural properties differed in the noise- and FM sweep-preferring regions, suggesting task-dependent differences in binaural processing. The low-frequency region was dominated by a large cluster of binaurally inhibited neurons with a smaller cluster of neurons with mixed binaural interactions. The FM sweep-selective region was dominated by neurons with mixed binaural interactions or monaural neurons. Finally, this report describes a cortical substrate for systematic representation of a spatial cue, IIDs, in the low-frequency region. This substrate may underlie a population code for sound localization based on a systematic shift in the distribution of activity across the cortex with sound source location.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Microelectrodes
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pitch Perception / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Sound Localization / physiology