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Eur J Neurosci. 2012 Jan;35(2):257-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07951.x. Epub 2011 Dec 29.

Right-left asymmetry in the cortical processing of sounds for social communication vs. navigation in mustached bats.

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Department of Neurology, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC 20057-1460, USA.


In the Doppler-shifted constant frequency processing area in the primary auditory cortex of mustached bats, Pteronotus parnellii, neurons respond to both social calls and to echolocation signals. This multifunctional nature of cortical neurons creates a paradox for simultaneous processing of two behaviorally distinct categories of sound. To test the possibility of a stimulus-specific hemispheric bias, single-unit responses were obtained to both types of sounds, calls and pulse-echo tone pairs, from the right and left auditory cortex. Neurons on the left exhibited only slightly higher peak response magnitudes for their respective best calls, but they showed a significantly higher sensitivity (lower response thresholds) to calls than neurons on the right. On average, call-to-tone response ratios were significantly higher for neurons on the left than for those on the right. Neurons on the right responded significantly more strongly to pulse-echo tone pairs than those on the left. Overall, neurons in males responded to pulse-echo tone pairs with a much higher spike count compared to females, but this difference was less pronounced for calls. Multidimensional scaling of call responses yielded a segregated representation of call types only on the left. These data establish for the first time, a behaviorally directed right-left asymmetry at the level of single cortical neurons. It is proposed that a lateralized cortex emerges from multiparametric integration (e.g. combination-sensitivity) within a neuron and inhibitory interactions between neurons that come into play during the processing of complex sounds.

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