Frequency tuning, latencies, and responses to frequency-modulated sweeps in the inferior colliculus of the echolocating bat, Eptesicus fuscus

J Comp Physiol A. 1998 Jan;182(1):65-79. doi: 10.1007/s003590050159.


Neurons in the inferior colliculus (IC) of the awake big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, were examined for joint frequency and latency response properties which could register the timing of the bat's frequency-modulated (FM) biosonar echoes. Best frequencies (BFs) range from 10 kHz to 100 kHz with 50% tuning widths mostly from 1 kHz to 8 kHz. Neurons respond with one discharge per 2-ms tone burst or FM stimulus at a characteristic latency in the range of 3-45 ms, with latency variability (SD) of 50 microseconds to 4-6 ms or more. BF distribution is related to biosonar signal structure. As observed previously, on a linear frequency scale BFs appear biased to lower frequencies, with 20-40 kHz overrepresented. However, on a hyperbolic frequency (linear period) scale BFs appear more uniformly distributed, with little overrepresentation. The cumulative proportion of BFs in FM1 and FM2 bands reconstructs a scaled version of the spectrogram of FM broadcasts. Correcting FM latencies for absolute BF latencies and BF time-in-sweep reveals a subset of IC cells which respond dynamically to the timing of their BFs in FM sweeps. Behaviorally, Eptesicus perceives echo delay and phase with microsecond or even submicrosecond accuracy and resolution, but even with use of phase-locked FM and tone-burst stimuli the cell-by-cell precision of IC time-frequency registration seems inadequate by itself to account for the temporal acuity exhibited by the bat.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Inferior Colliculi / cytology
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology