What is it about?

The brain in bats is specialized to process pulse-echo sounds for echolocation in the right hemisphere and calls for social communication in the left hemisphere.

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Why is it important?

This is important because it tells us about important properties and functional organization of the cerebral cortex. This type of organization underlies the specialized processing of speech and music in humans at the level of single neurons.


This is one of my most important and serendipitous discoveries when investigating the processing of complex sounds, particularly communication sounds in the brain of a bat. It lays the foundation for us to understand both the specializations and multifunctional processing in the mammalian brain. The work was followed up by my then graduate student, Dr. Stuart Washington, who demonstrated its acoustic basis in the left hemispheric neurons’ ability to process many rates of frequency modulated or FM sounds and in the right hemisphere’s specialization to process small differences in constant frequency or CF sounds.

Professor Jagmeet S Kanwal
Georgetown University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Right-left asymmetry in the cortical processing of sounds for social communication vs. navigation in mustached bats, European Journal of Neuroscience, December 2011, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07951.x.
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