Quantitative Eco/Evo/Etho Discussions

Prey Tracking and Interception Strategies of Echolocating Bats

Cynthia F. Moss, Johns Hopkins University

Nov 7, 2023
4:00 pm | Remote

Zoom registration link:

How does the brain represent dynamic sensory information from the natural environment?  How are sensory signals and motor commands coordinated to direct actions in 3D space? The echolocating bat presents a powerful animal model to address these questions, as it produces the very acoustic signals that guide its behaviors. Importantly, the echolocating bat adapts its echolocation signal design with changes in behavioral state, providing an experimental window to quantify on a millisecond time scale the information an animal has processed and the information it is seeking. My talk will review a series of experiments that probe the echolocating big brown bat’s sonar target tracking behaviors, both in flight and from a stationary perch. These experiments employed high-speed stereo IR video to reconstruct the bat’s flight trajectories and microphone array recordings to measure its sonar beam aim (acoustic gaze), as it steered around obstacles and prepared to intercept prey. Some experiments combined behavioral studies with neural telemetry recordings, which revealed dynamic remapping of echo response areas with shifts in the bat’s sonar-guided attention. Collectively, results from these experiments provide evidence that the echolocating big brown bat 1) actively controls its acoustic gaze to inspect and track objects, 2) couples its acoustic gaze and locomotor plan, and 3) relies on internal models of target motion to enable tracking under occlusion and to predict its point of interception with prey. These findings show parallels with visual tracking in humans and other animals.

Speaker Bio

Cynthia F. Moss is Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, with joint appointments in Neuroscience and Mechanical Engineering. At Johns Hopkins, she directs the Comparative Neural Systems and Behavior Laboratory, aka the Bat Lab. Moss received her B.S. (summa cum laude) from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Ph.D. from Brown University. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and a Research Fellow at Brown University before joining the faculty at Harvard University. At Harvard, Moss received the Phi Beta Kappa teaching award and was named the Morris Kahn Associate Professor. She also received the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award.  She later moved to the University of Maryland, where she was a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Institute for Systems Research. At Maryland, Moss served as Director of the interdepartmental graduate program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science. She was recognized in 2010 with the University of Maryland Regents Faculty Award for Research and Creativity.  In 2014, Moss joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University, where she holds a primary appointment in the Department of Psychological Sciences and joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Mechanical Engineering. She served as Department Chair 2019-2022. Her recent awards include the Hartmann Award in Auditory Neuroscience (2017), the James McKeen Cattell Award (2018) and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize (2019).  She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Acoustical Society of America, and the International Society for Neuroethology.


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