233 — Functional Organization and Dynamic Activity in the Superior Colliculus of the Echolocating Bat, Eptesicus fuscus
I’m at the BRAIN Initiative Investigators Meeting in DC and today I sat in on a fantastic talk by Dr. Cynthia Moss on bat echolocation research. Prior work has shown that the inferior colliculus has neurons that are selective to either echolocative calls or social calls — but these cells did not respond to calls of the other type. In this work, Moss demonstrates that cells in the superior colliculus (SC) of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) encode 3D information about target objects in a complex scene, and transit this information quickly between sensory and motor neurons in SC. Even within individual laminae, sensory and motor neurons interleave and exchange information at high speed.
This means that there is some complex specialized mechanism for echolocation in the bat brain that distinguishes between self-created and non-self sounds: Naturally, a bat needs to hear its own signals — but should ignore the echolocative signals of its peers and consider the social signals of its peers.
I want to also call attention to the complexity and awesomeness of the recording technology used in this research: The Moss lab created wearable modules for the bats that didn’t interact with flight or motion but were still able to record electrophysiology signals inside the brain.