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Bat Brains

January 16, 2012

Like humans, bats process some types of sounds on the right side of their brains and other sounds on the left side of their brains.



Two sides of the same brain…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update. 

Humans tend to use the left side of their brains to process speech sounds and the right side to process music. Now, researchers have found that bats also process sounds differently on the right and left sides of their brains. Bats use echolocation to navigate in the dark. But they’re social animals, and they communicate using calls like this one, which has been slowed down so it’s within the range of human hearing.

(Bat call slowed down)

Georgetown University neuroscientist Jag Kanwal recorded the activity of single neurons in the bats’ brains as they listened to both types of sounds.

JAG KANWAL (Georgetown University Medical Center):

And we find that neurons on the right respond better to echolocation sounds than they respond to the communication sounds.


He says neurons are specialized for processing just one type of sound. But by using both sides of the brain, bats and humans can process two types of sound at the same time. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.