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Baier, A. Leonie; Wiegrebe, Lutz ORCID: 0000-0002-9289-6187; Goerlitz, Holger R. (18. April 2019): Echo-Imaging Exploits an Environmental High-Pass Filter to Access Spatial Information with a Non-Spatial Sensor. In: iScience, Vol. 14: pp. 335-344
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Echo-imaging evolved as the main remote sense under lightless conditions. It is most precise in the third dimension (depth) rather than in the visually dominating dimensions of azimuth and elevation. We asked how the auditory system accesses spatial information in the dimensions of azimuth and elevation with a sensory apparatus that is fundamentally different from vision. We quantified echo-acoustic parameters of surface-wave patterns with impulse-response recordings and quantified bats' perceptual sensitivity to such patterns with formal psychophysics. We demonstrate that the spectro-temporal auditory representation of a wave pattern implicitly encodes its spatial frequency. We further show that bats are much more sensitive to wave patterns of high spatial frequencies than of low spatial frequencies. We conclude that echo-imaging accesses spatial information by exploiting an inherent environmental high-pass filter for spatial frequency. The functional similarities yet mechanistic differences between visual and auditory system signify convergent evolution of spatial-information processing.