Temporal tuning in the bat auditory cortex is sharper when studied with natural echolocation sequences

Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 30;6:29102. doi: 10.1038/srep29102.


Precise temporal coding is necessary for proper acoustic analysis. However, at cortical level, forward suppression appears to limit the ability of neurons to extract temporal information from natural sound sequences. Here we studied how temporal processing can be maintained in the bats' cortex in the presence of suppression evoked by natural echolocation streams that are relevant to the bats' behavior. We show that cortical neurons tuned to target-distance actually profit from forward suppression induced by natural echolocation sequences. These neurons can more precisely extract target distance information when they are stimulated with natural echolocation sequences than during stimulation with isolated call-echo pairs. We conclude that forward suppression does for time domain tuning what lateral inhibition does for selectivity forms such as auditory frequency tuning and visual orientation tuning. When talking about cortical processing, suppression should be seen as a mechanistic tool rather than a limiting element.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Acoustics*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology