Target range-sensitive neurons in the auditory cortex of the mustache bat

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Science  05 Jan 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4375, pp. 69-73
DOI: 10.1126/science.758681


Echolocating bats determine distance to targets by the time delay between their emitted biosonar pulses and the returning echoes. By varying the delay between synthetic pulses and echoes in stimulus pairs at various repetition rates and durations, neurons have been found in the auditory cortex of the mustache bat (Pteronotus parnellii rubiginosus) which are sensitive to target range during the search, approach, and terminal phases of prey capture or landing. Two classes of range-sensitive neurons were found: (i) tracking neurons, whose best delay for response to an echo following the emitted pulse becomes shorter and narrower as the bat closes in on the target, and (ii) range-tuned neurons, whose best delay is constant, and which respond to the target only when it is within a certain narrow fixed range. Range-tuned neurons are specialized for processing echoes only during a particular period of the search, approach, or terminal phases of echolocation, and they provide support for a theory of ranging in bats that incorporates groups of neurons with a spectrum of preferred echo delays to detect target distance.