The bat man: Neuroscience on the fly


If you’d asked me 10 years ago when I started my lab that I’ll be, you know – I’ll have a one-kilometre tunnel and recording from a whole colony of bats I’ll tell you you’re nuts. I’m studying the
hippocampal formation a set of brain areas that have to do with learning and memory. And I’m studying those brain areas in somewhat unusual animal models – in bats. Bats, I think they are very cute. The bats that we work with, Egyptian fruit bats have these interesting behaviours that we try to utilize and that give advantages over the standard animal models
which are mice and rats. So for example if we want
to ask questions about how 3D space – three dimensional space
is represented in the brain bats are flying mammals so obviously
they’re a good choice for that. Also another advantage is that bats have two distal sensory systems –
vision and echolocation. We can trade-off these two senses and ask how
the same spaces are represented under these two, systems which are
difficult to do in rats or mice. We also ask questions about how very large
spaces are represented in the brain. So we’ve built this long tunnel – 200 metre
long – and we are building this year an even longer tunnel – almost 1 kilometre
long. And we have bats flying there you know 100, 120 times back and forth while we record neurons in their brain and we see, you know, very different
representation in this enormous space. So we implant these small electrodes
in the bats that allow us to record the activity of single neurons
in those brain areas. And we have developed these small
wireless electrophysiology devices called neural loggers, that are really small
and sit on top of the animal, which allow us to record wirelessly
in a bat as its flying around. And then we can have them
fly in a large flight room or in various large-scale spaces
that we have built, and study their representation of space. We can
also have bats interacting and ask more social questions on the bats. What I’m really interested in is the
neural basis of natural behaviours. You know neuroscience has traditionally
focused on either, of course anaesthetised animals, animals that don’t behave at all. Or if they’re you know doing behaviours
they’re doing highly controlled behaviours you know lever pressing or nose poking in some very, you know 30 centimetre size box. The big plus size of side of it is it is highly controlled so you can get very repeated
very controlled experiments. The minus side of it is it’s very far
removed from natural behaviour from what the brain evolved to
actually do outdoors. And so I really believe, in addition to having those
highly controlled experiments, we should ideally record the same neurons or at
least from the same brain areas from an animal behaving in a more natural situation. Now that the technology allows it
that we have technology for wireless electrophysiology
for recording for freely moving animals. You know from wireless optogenetics,
camera arrays with microphones with movement sensors all sorts of devices
were not available until a few years ago. we can really study the neural basis of behaviour for the first time for real.

8 thoughts on “The bat man: Neuroscience on the fly

  1. Having those electrodes inside the bats' brain should not only change their brains activities but their social behaviors as well…

    #Neuroscience_of_Pain

  2. Think about the neuroscience of mass murders.
    Must See!!! YouTube video titled "Smiley Face Killers, Case Solved & Covered Up, FBI/Amish, Serial Killers, Homicide…"
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  3. Why not put the electrod to human. They are most evolve spp on earth. You will get reply to many unanswered que. Sometimes I can't understand to ideology if scientific community to avoid the data from human sample by justifying the ethics. When we have to serve humanking so we must do experiment on Human.

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