Frequency tuning properties of neurons in the inferior colliculus of an FM bat



We examined frequency tuning characteristics of single neurons in the inferior colliculus of the echolocating bat, Eptesicus fuscus, in order to determine whether there are different classes of spectral selectivity at this level and to relate frequency tuning properties to the design of the echolocation signal. In unanesthetized but tranquilized animals, we recorded responses from 363 single units to pure tones, frequency-modulated (FM) sweeps, or broad-band noise. Most units were selective for stimulus type; 50% responded only to pure tones, 14% responded only to FM sweeps, and 5% responded only to noise. The remainder responded to two or more types of stimuli. Tuning curves could be classified as follows: 1) V-shaped tuning curves (57%) were the most common type; 2) closed tuning curves (20%) had thresholds at both low and high sound levels; 3) narrow filters (14%) had Q values above 20 at 10 dB and 30 dB above threshold or 10 dB and 40 dB above threshold; 4) frequency-opponent tuning (6%) was found in units with high spontaneous activity; within a center range of frequencies, firing rate increased above spontaneous level, but at higher or lower frequencies, firing rate decreased below spontaneous level; 5) double-tuned units (3%) had two best frequencies (BF). The most clear evidence of topographic distribution was seen for filter units, which were only found in the dorsal part of the 20–30 kHz isofrequency contour. Filter units were also the most clearly related to the echolocation signal of the bat. Their BFs were all within the range of the dominant frequency (˜20–30 kHz) that Eptesicus uses during the searching phase of echolocation. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.