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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2003 Nov;189(11):843-55. Epub 2003 Oct 15.

Can two streams of auditory information be processed simultaneously? Evidence from the gleaning bat Antrozous pallidus.

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Department of Zoology and Physiology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA.


A tenet of auditory scene analysis is that we can fully process only one stream of auditory information at a time. We tested this assumption in a gleaning bat, the pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) because this bat uses echolocation for general orientation, and relies heavily on prey-generated sounds to detect and locate its prey. It may therefore encounter situations in which the echolocation and passive listening streams temporally overlap. Pallid bats were trained to a dual task in which they had to negotiate a wire array, using echolocation, and land on one of 15 speakers emitting a brief noise burst in order to obtain a food reward. They were forced to process both streams within a narrow 300 to 500 ms time window by having the noise burst triggered by the bats' initial echolocation pulses as it approached the wire array. Relative to single task controls, echolocation and passive sound localization performance was slightly, but significantly, degraded. The bats also increased echolocation interpulse intervals during the dual task, as though attempting to reduce temporal overlap between the signals. These results suggest that the bats, like humans, have difficulty in processing more than one stream of information at a time.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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