Social and echolocation vocalizations of bats contain different patterns of frequency modulations. An adult bat's ability to discriminate between various FM parameters, however, is not well established. Using changes in heart rate (HR) as a quantitative measure of associative learning, we demonstrate that mustached bats (Pteronotus parnellii) can be fear conditioned to linear frequency modulated (FM) sweeps typically centered at their acoustic fovea (approximately 60 kHz). We also show that HR is sensitive to a change in the direction of the conditional frequency modulation keeping all other parameters constant. In addition, a change in either depth or duration co-varied with FM rate is reflected in the change in HR. Finally, HR increases linearly with FM rate incremented by 0.1 kHz/ms from a pure tone to a target rate of 1.0 kHz/ms of the conditional stimulus. Learning is relatively rapid, occurring after a single training session. We also observed that fear conditioning enhances local field potential activity within the basolateral amygdala. Neural response enhancement coinciding with rapid learning and a fine scale cortical representation of FM sweeps shown earlier make FMs prime candidates for discriminating between different call types and possibly communicating socially relevant information within species-specific sounds.
Ma, J., Naumann, R. T., & Kanwal, J. S. (2010). Fear conditioned discrimination of frequency modulated sweeps within species-specific calls of mustached bats. PLoS ONE, 5(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0010579