In this study, Queenan and her colleagues presented different combinations of echolocation sounds with various communication sounds to awake bats to see how neurons in the bat brains were dealing with this incredible cacophony. The researchers found that some bats' neurons control the activity of other neurons when important sounds are perceived. These GUMC scientists also found other neurons that amp up perception of bat communication in the face of background noise. Working together, these clumps of neurons allow the bats to hear what is needed.
"All organisms are constantly assaulted by incoming stimuli such as sounds, light, vibrations, and so on, and our sensory systems have to triage the most relevant stimuli to help us survive," Queenan says. "As humans we are not only sensitive to a child's cry, but we notice flashing ambulance lights even though we are engrossed in something else. We want to know how that happens."
Queenan says her next task is to record brain neurons in bats that are not only awake, but flying.
|Contact: Karen Mallet|
Georgetown University Medical Center