Navigation Links
Researchers studying how singing bats communicate
Date:10/18/2007

COLLEGE STATION, Oct. 18, 2007 Bats are the most vocal mammals other than humans, and understanding how they communicate during their nocturnal outings could lead to better treatments for human speech disorders, say researchers at Texas A&M University.

Thousands of bats native to Central Texas fly overhead each night singing songs of complex syllables but at frequencies too high for humans to hear.

Texas A&M researcher Michael Smotherman is trying to understand how Mexican Freetail bats organize syllables into songs and how their communication is linked to the brain. If we can identify those areas in a bat brain [responsible for communication], we can learn more about how a normal [human] brain generates and orchestrates complex communication sequences, Smotherman says. And by understanding how that works, we can then come up with testable hypotheses about what might be going on in speech disorders.

The researchers in Smothermans lab are studying two aspects of bat communication. In behavioral studies, they examine sex differences and seasonal variations in communication, and in physiology studies they try to locate the parts of the bat brain active during communication.

Mexican Freetail bats sing mostly in ultrasonic frequencies that are right above the upper limit of human hearing. Humans can sometimes hear little bits of bat songs, however, when parts of syllables drop low enough.

Bats communicate at such high frequencies because of their ability to echolocate, which means they project sound and use the echoes to determine the direction and distance of objects. As the frequency of the bats sound gets higher, it can detect a more detailed picture of its surroundings.

Smotherman says Mexican Freetail bats use between 15 and 20 syllables to create calls. Every male bat has its own unique courtship song. The pattern of all courtship songs is similar, but each male bat uses a different syllable in its distinctive song. Bats also use sophisticated vocal communication to draw territorial borders, define social status, repel intruders, instruct offspring and recognize each other.

No other mammals besides humans are able to use such complex vocal sequences to communicate, Smotherman says.

The songs bats sing are similar to bird songs. Scientists have understood the link between bird songs and the bird brain for years, but the architecture of a bird brain is very different from that of a mammal brain, Smotherman explains, so it is difficult to apply knowledge about bird communication to human speech.

The brains of all mammals are organized in basically the same way, so a bat brain has many of the same structures as a human brain. This makes it easier to infer things about human speech from studying bat communication. The researchers first goal is to locate the part of the bat brain responsible for singing. The bat brain has to have some higher vocal center thats responsible for organizing these [vocal] sequences and patterns, and we just dont know where it is yet, Smotherman says. So were using molecular techniques to identify which regions of the brain are most active during singing.

Smotherman and his team maintain about 75 bats in their lab. They usually collect the bats from schools and churches that report bats in their buildings. [By doing this,] we dont have to feel like were taking them out of the wild, Smotherman says. He adds that the bats are not aggressive and are a fantastic bat for the lab because they are quite friendly.

Smotherman hopes that over the next decade, the group can apply its research to knowledge of human speech and help shed light on language disorders. The fact that human speech is so unique has really constrained research in this area, Smotherman says. Compared to other areas of neuroscience, were way behind in understanding even the most basic issues of how [speech] works.


'/>"/>

Contact: Keith Randall
keith-randall@tamu.edu
979-845-4644
Texas A&M University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Researchers discover way to make cells in the eye sensitive to light
2. Researchers find how protein allows insects to detect and respond to pheromones
3. Researchers Uncover Key Step In Manufacture of Memory Protein
4. NYU researchers simulate molecular biological clock
5. Researchers reveal the infectious impact of salmon farms on wild salmon
6. Researchers identify target for cancer drugs
7. Vital step in cellular migration described by UCSD medical researchers
8. ASU researchers finds novel chemistry at work to provide parrots vibrant red colors
9. UCSD researchers maintain stem cells without contaminated animal feeder layers
10. Researchers discover molecule that causes secondary stroke
11. Researchers find missing genes of ancient organism
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:8/15/2017)... --  ivWatch LLC , a medical device company focused on improving ... of its ISO 13485 Certification, the global standard for medical device ... (ISO®). ... Monitoring device for the early detection of IV infiltrations. ... "This is an important milestone for ivWatch, as it ...
(Date:6/30/2017)... , June 30, 2017 Today, American ... and supplier of face and eye tracking software, ... Product provider program. "Artificial intelligence ... way to monitor a driver,s attentiveness levels while ... being able to detect fatigue and prevent potential ...
(Date:6/14/2017)... IBM ) is introducing several innovative partner startups at VivaTech ... startups and global businesses, taking place in Paris ... will showcase the solutions they have built with IBM Watson ... France is one of the most dynamic ... in the number of startups created between 2012 and 2015*, ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... ... San Diego-based team building and cooking events company, Lajollacooks4u, has unveiled a ... new look is part of a transformation to increase awareness, appeal to new markets ... It will also expand its service offering from its signature gourmet cooking classes and ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... Oct. 10, 2017 SomaGenics announced the receipt ... to develop RealSeq®-SC (Single Cell), expected to be the ... RNAs (including microRNAs) from single cells using NGS methods. ... need to accelerate development of approaches to analyze the ... "New techniques for measuring levels of mRNAs in ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... 09, 2017 , ... At its national board meeting in North Carolina, ... University’s Departments of Physics and Astronomy, has been selected for membership in ARCS ... for the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental physics for the discovery of the accelerating ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... Mass. , Oct. 6, 2017  The ... work of three scientists, Jacques Dubochet, Joachim ... breakthrough developments in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) ... technology within the structural biology community. The winners ... Scientists can now routinely produce highly resolved, three-dimensional ...
Breaking Biology Technology: