Cortical neurons of bats respond best to echoes from nearest targets when listening to natural biosonar multi-echo streams

Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 27;6:35991. doi: 10.1038/srep35991.


Bats orientate in darkness by listening to echoes from their biosonar calls, a behaviour known as echolocation. Recent studies showed that cortical neurons respond in a highly selective manner when stimulated with natural echolocation sequences that contain echoes from single targets. However, it remains unknown how cortical neurons process echolocation sequences containing echo information from multiple objects. In the present study, we used echolocation sequences containing echoes from three, two or one object separated in the space depth as stimuli to study neuronal activity in the bat auditory cortex. Neuronal activity was recorded with multi-electrode arrays placed in the dorsal auditory cortex, where neurons tuned to target-distance are found. Our results show that target-distance encoding neurons are mostly selective to echoes coming from the closest object, and that the representation of echo information from distant objects is selectively suppressed. This suppression extends over a large part of the dorsal auditory cortex and may override possible parallel processing of multiple objects. The presented data suggest that global cortical suppression might establish a cortical "default mode" that allows selectively focusing on close obstacle even without active attention from the animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / cytology
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Chiroptera / anatomy & histology
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Female
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology