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- Society for Neuroscience symposia
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- National Science Foundation
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Most bat species have highly developed audio-vocal systems, which allow them to adjust the features of echolocation calls that are optimized for different sonar tasks, such as detecting, localizing, discriminating and tracking targets. Furthermore, bats can also produce a wide array of social calls to communicate with conspecifics. The acoustic properties of some social calls differ only subtly from echolocation calls, yet bats have the ability to distinguish them and reliably produce appropriate behavioral responses. Little is known about the underlying neural processes that enable the correct classification of bat social communication sounds. One approach to this question is to identify the brain regions that are involved in the processing of sounds that carry behavioral relevance. Here, we present preliminary data on neuronal activation, as measured by c-fos expression, in big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) exposed to either social calls, echolocation calls or kept in silence. We focused our investigation on five relevant brain areas; three within the canonical auditory pathway (auditory cortex, inferior colliculus and medial geniculate body) and two that are involved in the processing of emotive stimulus content (amygdala and nucleus accumbens). In this manuscript we report c-fos staining of the areas of interest after exposure to conspecific calls. We discuss future work designed to overcome experimental limitations and explore whether c-fos staining reveals anatomical segregation of neurons activated by echolocation and social call call categories.more » « less
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Unlike other predators that use vision as their primary sensory system, bats compute the three-dimensional (3D) position of flying insects from discrete echo snapshots, which raises questions about the strategies they employ to track and intercept erratically moving prey from interrupted sensory information. Here, we devised an ethologically inspired behavioral paradigm to directly test the hypothesis that echolocating bats build internal prediction models from dynamic acoustic stimuli to anticipate the future location of moving auditory targets. We quantified the direction of the bat’s head/sonar beam aim and echolocation call rate as it tracked a target that moved across its sonar field and applied mathematical models to differentiate between nonpredictive and predictive tracking behaviors. We discovered that big brown bats accumulate information across echo sequences to anticipate an auditory target’s future position. Further, when a moving target is hidden from view by an occluder during a portion of its trajectory, the bat continues to track its position using an internal model of the target’s motion path. Our findings also reveal that the bat increases sonar call rate when its prediction of target trajectory is violated by a sudden change in target velocity. This shows that the bat rapidly adapts its sonar behavior to update internal models of auditory target trajectories, which would enable tracking of evasive prey. Collectively, these results demonstrate that the echolocating big brown bat integrates acoustic snapshots over time to build prediction models of a moving auditory target’s trajectory and enable prey capture under conditions of uncertainty.
Target tracking and interception in a dynamic world proves to be a fundamental challenge faced by both animals and artificial systems. To track moving objects under natural conditions, agents must employ strategies to mitigate interference and conditions of uncertainty. Animal studies of prey tracking and capture reveal biological solutions, which can inspire new technologies, particularly for operations in complex and noisy environments. By reviewing research on target tracking and interception by echolocating bats, we aim to highlight biological solutions that could inform new approaches to artificial sonar tracking and navigation systems. Most bat species use wideband echolocation signals to navigate dense forests and hunt for evasive insects in the dark. Importantly, bats exhibit rapid adaptations in flight trajectory, sonar beam aim, and echolocation signal design, which appear to be key to the success of these animals in a variety of tasks. The rich suite of adaptive behaviors of echolocating bats could be leveraged in new sonar tracking technologies by implementing dynamic sensorimotor feedback control of wideband sonar signal design, head, and ear movements.more » « less
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