Target representation of naturalistic echolocation sequences in single unit responses from the inferior colliculus of big brown bats

J Acoust Soc Am. 2005 Nov;118(5):3352-61. doi: 10.1121/1.2041227.


Echolocating big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) emit trains of frequency-modulated (FM) biosonar signals whose duration, repetition rate, and sweep structure change systematically during interception of prey. When stimulated with a 2.5-s sequence of 54 FM pulse-echo pairs that mimic sounds received during search, approach, and terminal stages of pursuit, single neurons (N = 116) in the bat's inferior colliculus (IC) register the occurrence of a pulse or echo with an average of < 1 spike/sound. Individual IC neurons typically respond to only a segment of the search or approach stage of pursuit, with fewer neurons persisting to respond in the terminal stage. Composite peristimulus-time-histogram plots of responses assembled across the whole recorded population of IC neurons depict the delay of echoes and, hence, the existence and distance of the simulated biosonar target, entirely as on-response latencies distributed across time. Correlated changes in pulse duration, repetition rate, and pulse or echo amplitude do modulate the strength of responses (probability of the single spike actually occurring for each sound), but registration of the target itself remains confined exclusively to the latencies of single spikes across cells. Modeling of echo processing in FM biosonar should emphasize spike-time algorithms to explain the content of biosonar images.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology