Neural oscillations in the fronto-striatal network predict vocal output in bats

by Kristin Weineck, Francisco García-Rosales, Julio C. Hechavarría

The ability to vocalize is ubiquitous in vertebrates, but neural networks underlying vocal control remain poorly understood. Here, we performed simultaneous neuronal recordings in the frontal cortex and dorsal striatum (caudate nucleus, CN) during the production of echolocation pulses and communication calls in bats. This approach allowed us to assess the general aspects underlying vocal production in mammals and the unique evolutionary adaptations of bat echolocation. Our data indicate that before vocalization, a distinctive change in high-gamma and beta oscillations (50–80 Hz and 12–30 Hz, respectively) takes place in the bat frontal cortex and dorsal striatum. Such precise fine-tuning of neural oscillations could allow animals to selectively activate motor programs required for the production of either echolocation or communication vocalizations. Moreover, the functional coupling between frontal and striatal areas, occurring in the theta oscillatory band (4–8 Hz), differs markedly at the millisecond level, depending on whether the animals are in a navigational mode (that is, emitting echolocation pulses) or in a social communication mode (emitting communication calls). Overall, this study indicates that fronto-striatal oscillations could provide a neural correlate for vocal control in bats.

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