Echo-acoustic flow dynamically modifies the cortical map of target range in bats

Nat Commun. 2014 Aug 18;5:4668. doi: 10.1038/ncomms5668.


Echolocating bats use the delay between their sonar emissions and the reflected echoes to measure target range, a crucial parameter for avoiding collisions or capturing prey. In many bat species, target range is represented as an orderly organized map of echo delay in the auditory cortex. Here we show that the map of target range in bats is dynamically modified by the continuously changing flow of acoustic information perceived during flight ('echo-acoustic flow'). Combining dynamic acoustic stimulation in virtual space with extracellular recordings, we found that neurons in the auditory cortex of the bat Phyllostomus discolor encode echo-acoustic flow information on the geometric relation between targets and the bat's flight trajectory, rather than echo delay per se. Specifically, the cortical representation of close-range targets is enlarged when the lateral passing distance of the target decreases. This flow-dependent enlargement of target representation may trigger adaptive behaviours such as vocal control or flight manoeuvres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Acoustics
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology
  • Male