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Hoffmann, Susanne; Warmbold, Alexander; Wiegrebe, Lutz ORCID: 0000-0002-9289-6187; Firzlaff, Uwe (2013): Spatiotemporal contrast enhancement and feature extraction in the bat auditory midbrain and cortex. In: Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 110, No. 6: pp. 1257-1268
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Navigating on the wing in complete darkness is a challenging task for echolocating bats. It requires the detailed analysis of spatial and temporal information gained through echolocation. Thus neural encoding of spatiotemporal echo information is a major function in the bat auditory system. In this study we presented echoes in virtual acoustic space and used a reverse-correlation technique to investigate the spatiotemporal response characteristics of units in the inferior colliculus (IC) and the auditory cortex (AC) of the bat Phyllostomus discolor. Spatiotemporal response maps (STRMs) of IC units revealed an organization of suppressive and excitatory regions that provided pronounced contrast enhancement along both the time and azimuth axes. Most IC units showed either spatially centralized short-latency excitation spatiotemporally imbedded in strong suppression, or the opposite, i.e., central short-latency suppression imbedded in excitation. This complementary arrangement of excitation and suppression was very rarely seen in AC units. In contrast, STRMs in the AC revealed much less suppression, sharper spatiotemporal tuning, and often a special spatiotemporal arrangement of two excitatory regions. Temporal separation of excitatory regions ranged up to 25 ms and was thus in the range of temporal delays occurring in target ranging in bats in a natural situation. Our data indicate that spatiotemporal processing of echo information in the bat auditory midbrain and cortex serves very different purposes: Whereas the spatiotemporal contrast enhancement provided by the IC contributes to echo-feature extraction, the AC reflects the result of this processing in terms of a high selectivity and task-oriented recombination of the extracted features.