Regulation of bat echolocation pulse acoustics by striatal dopamine. Academic Article uri icon


  • The ability to control the bandwidth, amplitude and duration of echolocation pulses is a crucial aspect of echolocation performance but few details are known about the neural mechanisms underlying the control of these voice parameters in any mammal. The basal ganglia (BG) are a suite of forebrain nuclei centrally involved in sensory-motor control and are characterized by their dependence on dopamine. We hypothesized that pharmacological manipulation of brain dopamine levels could reveal how BG circuits might influence the acoustic structure of bat echolocation pulses. A single intraperitoneal injection of a low dose (5 mg kg(-1)) of the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridine (MPTP), which selectively targets dopamine-producing cells of the substantia nigra, produced a rapid degradation in pulse acoustic structure and eliminated the bat's ability to make compensatory changes in pulse amplitude in response to background noise, i.e. the Lombard response. However, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) measurements of striatal dopamine concentrations revealed that the main effect of MPTP was a fourfold increase rather than the predicted decrease in striatal dopamine levels. After first using autoradiographic methods to confirm the presence and location of D(1)- and D(2)-type dopamine receptors in the bat striatum, systemic injections of receptor subtype-specific agonists showed that MPTP's effects on pulse acoustics were mimicked by a D(2)-type dopamine receptor agonist (Quinpirole) but not by a D(1)-type dopamine receptor agonist (SKF82958). The results suggest that BG circuits have the capacity to influence echolocation pulse acoustics, particularly via D(2)-type dopamine receptor-mediated pathways, and may therefore represent an important mechanism for vocal control in bats.

published proceedings

  • J Exp Biol

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Tressler, J., Schwartz, C., Wellman, P., Hughes, S., & Smotherman, M.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Tressler, Jedediah||Schwartz, Christine||Wellman, Paul||Hughes, Samuel||Smotherman, Michael

publication date

  • October 2011