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Natural echolocation sequences evoke echo-delay selectivity in the auditory midbrain of the FM bat, Eptesicus fuscus.

Macías, Silvio; Luo, Jinhong; Moss, Cynthia F.
J Neurophysiol; 120(3): 1323-1339, 2018 09 01.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29924708
Echolocating bats must process temporal streams of sonar sounds to represent objects along the range axis. Neuronal echo-delay tuning, the putative mechanism of sonar ranging, has been characterized in the inferior colliculus (IC) of the mustached bat, an insectivorous species that produces echolocation calls consisting of constant frequency and frequency modulated (FM) components, but not in species that use FM signals alone. This raises questions about the mechanisms that give rise to echo-delay tuning in insectivorous bats that use different signal designs. To investigate whether stimulus context may account for species differences in echo-delay selectivity, we characterized single-unit responses in the IC of awake passively listening FM bats, Eptesicus fuscus, to broadcasts of natural sonar call-echo sequences, which contained dynamic changes in signal duration, interval, spectrotemporal structure, and echo-delay. In E. fuscus, neural selectivity to call-echo delay emerges in a population of IC neurons when stimulated with call-echo pairs presented at intervals mimicking those in a natural sonar sequence. To determine whether echo-delay selectivity also depends on the spectrotemporal features of individual sounds within natural sonar sequences, we studied responses to computer-generated echolocation signals that controlled for call interval, duration, bandwidth, sweep rate, and echo-delay. A subpopulation of IC neurons responded selectively to the combination of the spectrotemporal structure of natural call-echo pairs and their temporal patterning within a dynamic sonar sequence. These new findings suggest that the FM bat's fine control over biosonar signal parameters may modulate IC neuronal selectivity to the dimension of echo-delay. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Echolocating bats perform precise auditory temporal computations to estimate their distance to objects. Here, we report that response selectivity of neurons in the inferior colliculus of a frequency modulated bat to call-echo delay, or target range tuning, depends on the temporal patterning and spectrotemporal features of sound elements in a natural echolocation sequence. We suggest that echo responses to objects at different distances are gated by the bat's active control over the spectrotemporal patterning of its sonar emissions.
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