Insects and bats are ideal subjects for addressing questions on the physiology of hearing, animal bioacoustics, and the neural control of acoustically-evoked behaviour because the ecological and evolutionary context of their auditory behaviours are well understood (e.g. mate-calling, predator avoidance, prey detection). Bats and insects are also a model system for studying the sensory ecology of predator-prey interactions. Like other invertebrates, insects have relatively simple nervous systems and behaviour patterns, thus specific neurons and cellular mechanisms controlling or correlating with behaviour can often be identified. Among mammals, echolocating bats are an exceptionally interesting and useful model system for studying hearing and perception because the significance of biosonar to the natural orienting and hunting behaviour of bats is also well understood. Moreover, the components of the bat’s central auditory system are fundamentally mammalian, hence, auditory processing mechanisms that can be readily discovered in bats are likely to be of general relevance to all mammals.
Our research employs a variety of techniques to examine the relationship between hearing and behaviour. My behavioural work uses psychophysical tests to study prey detection by bats, acoustic playback experiments to evoke and manipulate acoustic and auditory behaviour, and sound recording and signal analyses to measure critical features of sound and to examine variability in signal design when bats are challenged to detect signals in different tasks and thus are faced with varying perceptual demands. My electrophysiological research employs single unit extracellular recording in the inferior colliculus of the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) to examine how the interplay of temporal patterns of neural excitation and inhibition create auditory neurons at higher levels in the central auditory system with specialized response properties that serve as auditory filters (adaptations) for processing temporal features of sound. I also have experience with both extracellular and intracellular recording in moths and katydids.
To learn more about our research, please consult the Publications link .