Echolocating bats use echoes of their sonar emissions to determine the position and distance of objects or prey. Target distance is represented as a map of echo delay in the auditory cortex (AC) of bats. During a bat's flight through a natural complex environment, echo streams are reflected from multiple objects along its flight path. Separating such complex streams of echoes or other sounds is a challenge for the auditory system of bats as well as other animals. We investigated the representation of multiple echo streams in the AC of anaesthetized bats (Phyllostomus discolor) and tested the hypothesis, if neurons can lock on echoes from specific objects in a complex echo-acoustic pattern while the representation of surrounding objects is suppressed. We combined naturalistic pulse/echo sequences simulating a bat's flight through a virtual acoustic space with extracellular recordings. Neurons could selectively lock on echoes from one object in complex echo streams originating from two different objects along a virtual flight path. The objects were processed sequentially in the order in which they were approached. Object selection depended on sequential changes of echo delay and amplitude but not on absolute values. Furthermore, the detailed representation of the object echo delays in the cortical target range map was not fixed but could be dynamically adapted depending on the temporal pattern of sonar emission during target approach within a simulated flight sequence.
- Bio sonar
- Auditory cortex
- Auditory scene analysis
- Cortical map
- Copyright © 2016, Journal of Neurophysiology