A comprehensive computational model of animal biosonar signal processing

PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 Feb 17;17(2):e1008677. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008677. eCollection 2021 Feb.


Computational models of animal biosonar seek to identify critical aspects of echo processing responsible for the superior, real-time performance of echolocating bats and dolphins in target tracking and clutter rejection. The Spectrogram Correlation and Transformation (SCAT) model replicates aspects of biosonar imaging in both species by processing wideband biosonar sounds and echoes with auditory mechanisms identified from experiments with bats. The model acquires broadband biosonar broadcasts and echoes, represents them as time-frequency spectrograms using parallel bandpass filters, translates the filtered signals into ten parallel amplitude threshold levels, and then operates on the resulting time-of-occurrence values at each frequency to estimate overall echo range delay. It uses the structure of the echo spectrum by depicting it as a series of local frequency nulls arranged regularly along the frequency axis of the spectrograms after dechirping them relative to the broadcast. Computations take place entirely on the timing of threshold-crossing events for each echo relative to threshold-events for the broadcast. Threshold-crossing times take into account amplitude-latency trading, a physiological feature absent from conventional digital signal processing. Amplitude-latency trading transposes the profile of amplitudes across frequencies into a profile of time-registrations across frequencies. Target shape is extracted from the spacing of the object's individual acoustic reflecting points, or glints, using the mutual interference pattern of peaks and nulls in the echo spectrum. These are merged with the overall range-delay estimate to produce a delay-based reconstruction of the object's distance as well as its glints. Clutter echoes indiscriminately activate multiple parts in the null-detecting system, which then produces the equivalent glint-delay spacings in images, thus blurring the overall echo-delay estimates by adding spurious glint delays to the image. Blurring acts as an anticorrelation process that rejects clutter intrusion into perceptions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dolphins / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Light
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Software
  • Sound*

Grant support

This research was supported by Office of Naval Research Grant (N00014-14-1-05880) to JAS, and Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (N00014-17-1-2736) to AMS and JAS. ONR.Navy.Mil The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.