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Bats bolster brain hypothesis, maybe technology, too
Date:8/15/2014

of high and low frequencies, for example 33 kilohertz and 66 kilohertz. These harmonic pairs reflect off of objects and back to the bat's ears, triggering a response from neurons in its brain. Objects that reflect these harmonic pairs back in perfect synchrony are the ones that stand out clearly for the bat.

Of course it's more complicated than just that. Many things could reflect the same frequency pairs back at the same time. The real question is how a target object would stand out. The answer, Simmons writes, comes from the physics of the echolocation sound waves and how bat brains have evolved to process their signal. Those factors conspire to ensure that whatever the bat keeps front-and-center in its echolocation cone will stand out from surrounding interference.

The higher frequency sounds in the bat's spectrum weaken in transit through the air more than lower frequency sounds. The bat also sends out the lower frequencies to a wider span of angles than the high frequencies. So For any given harmonic pair, the farther away or more peripheral a reflecting object is, the weaker the higher frequency reflection in the harmonic pair will be. In the brain, Simmons writes, the bat converts this difference in signal strength into a delay in time (about 15 microseconds per decibel) so that harmonic pairs with wide differences in signal strength end up being perceived as way out of synchrony in time. The temporal binding hypothesis, predicts that the distant or peripheral objects with these out-of-synch signals will be perceived as the background while front-and-center objects that reflect back both harmonics with equal strength will rise above their desynchronized competitors.

With support from sources including the U.S. Navy, Simmons's research group has experimentally verified this. In key experiments (some dating back 40 years) they've sat big brown bats at the base of a Y-shaped platform with a pair of objects one a target with a food re
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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