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Grunwald, Jan-Eric; Schörnich, Sven; Wiegrebe, Lutz ORCID: 0000-0002-9289-6187 (2004): Classification of natural textures in echolocation. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Vol. 101, No. 15: pp. 5670-5674
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Abstract

Through echolocation, a bat can perceive not only the position of an object in the dark;it can also recognize its 3D structure. A tree, however, is a very complex object;it has thousands of reflective surfaces that result in a chaotic acoustic image of the tree. Technically, the acoustic image of an object is its impulse response (IR), i.e., the sum of the reflections recorded when the object is ensonified with an acoustic impulse. The extraction of the acoustic IR from the ultrasonic echo and the detailed IR analysis underlies the bats' extraordinary object-recognition capabilities. Here, a phantom-object playback experiment is developed to demonstrate that the bat Phyllostomus discolor can evaluate a statistical property of chaotic Ills, the IR roughness. The Ills of the phantom objects consisted of up to 4,000 stochastically distributed reflections. It is shown that P. discolor spontaneously classifies echoes generated with these Ills according to IR roughness. This capability enables the bats to evaluate complex natural textures, such as foliage types, in a meaningful manner. The present behavioral results and their simulations in a computer model of the bats' ascending auditory system indicate the involvement of modulation-sensitive neurons in echo analysis.