Neural ensemble coding of target identity in echolocating bats
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Most insectivorous bats use echolocation to determine the identity of flying insects. Among the many target features that are so extracted, the insect's wingbeat pattern and frequency appear to serve as useful cues for identification. Biosonar pulses impinging on the fluttering wings of an insect are returned as echoes whose amplitudes vary with time, thus providing a characteristic signature of the insect. It has been shown previously that neurons in the inferior colliculus, a midbrain auditory nucleus, of the little brown bat respond to sound stimuli that mimic echoes from fluttering targets. To examine the manner in which target identity is represented in the inferior colliculus, an ensemble coding analysis using a filter-based approach was undertaken. The analysis indicates that a discrete subset of neurons in the inferior colliculus, the onset units, are strongly tuned to wingbeat frequencies of targets that the bat hunts, and that ensemble response reaches a maximum at a distinct phase of the prey capture maneuver: the late approach stage. On the basis of the analysis it is hypothesized that inferior colliculus neurons may play an important role in target detection-identification processing. Although ensemble coding of temporally sequenced information has not been analyzed in the auditory system so far, this study indicates that this method of coding may provide the information necessary to detect and identify targets during prey capture.
KeywordsAuditory System Inferior Colliculus Target Identity Target Feature Prey Capture
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