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Sound

Spring 2003

How do we perceive sound?

Christine Portfors, a neurologist, tends a lair of 23 tropical moustache bats at WSU Vancouver in order to tease apart the question of how they distinguish between sounds-for example, between those they use for echolocation and those they use to communicate.

Bat communication sounds, like speech sounds, are very complex in terms of frequency and timing, says Portfors. Beyond that, “We don’t know anything about how the brain actually processes those types of sounds.”

Earlier work by Portfors revealed that bats have neurons that are very sensitive to the timing of the echolocation sound, between when they emit it and when the echo comes back. … » More …