Echolocating bats, with their highly specialized auditory behaviors, have provided some of the clearest examples of structure/function relationships in the auditory cortex. A research study published in the February 2002 Journal of Neurophysiology points out differences and similarities between humans and bats in processing auditory information.

Bethesda, MD (February 4, 2002) Bats have inspired awe, fear, and even the inspiration for a world famous comic book character. But for a team of physiologists, the pallid bat can provide new clues into the structure and function of the auditory cortex.

This winged creature is unusual because it finds its prey by passively listening to prey-generated noise of short duration, while reserving high-frequency echolocation for obstacle avoidance. Echolocation is the method bats use to direct their flight and avoid solid objects. The creatures emit high-pitched cries, which are inaudible to human ears but are heard by bats as reflected echoes from objects in their path.

The primary auditory cortex is key to the pallid bats ability to perform frequency tuning, selectivity for behaviorally relevant sounds, and interaural intensity difference (IID) sensitivity. The auditory cortex is the region of the cerebral cortex that receives the auditory radiation from the medial geniculate body and has a spatial arrangement of structures such that certain tone frequencies are transmitted, as in the auditory pathway.

The Study
A new study from the University of Wyoming provides the first survey of the primary auditory cortex of a bat that relies heavily on both echolocation and passive sound localization. The objectives of the investigation were to identify insights into the organizational features present in both echolocators and passive listeners.

This study also attempted to map the cortex of the pallid bat in the dimensions of frequency representation, selec

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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