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Human echolocators can better locate targets from the side rather than straight ahead

Overview: People using echolocation have better acuity in locating a target 45 degrees to the side compared to straight ahead at 0 degrees.

Source: University of Durham

New research conducted by scientists from Durham University, UK, University of Birmingham, UK, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands and Placentia, USA has found for the first time that human echolocators have better acuity when locating a target from 45° to the side compared to straight ahead at 0°.

The researchers tested the echolocation ability of nine blind adult human experts who use this skill on a daily basis.

They found that echolocation performance is dramatically improved at 45°, where participants can better locate targets based on echoes coming from the side.

Their research results indicate that human echolocation and human regular spatial hearing may be governed by different principles, as normal hearing is best from straight ahead at 0° and gets worse as targets move further to the side.

The researchers point out that human echolocation and normal hearing may depend on different acoustic signals, and that human spatial hearing has more facets than previously thought.

The researchers also characterized and analyzed the participants’ clicking behavior and found that participants made quieter clicks when they received stronger echo signals coming from the side at a 45° angle.

This shows a blind lady walking
The researchers tested the echolocation ability of nine blind adult human experts who use this skill on a daily basis. Credit: University of Durham

The full results of the study have been published in the journal psychological science

Lead author of the paper, Dr Lore Thaler of Durham University, said: “There is still much to be discovered about human echolocation and about human perceptual abilities in general. Our findings show that there are facets of human spatial hearing that we do not knew before.”

The researchers further found that better human echo-localization away from straight ahead is consistent with what has been observed in bats.

This is surprising because bats have anatomical and neural specializations for echolocation that humans do not. Finding such a behavioral similarity suggests that both humans and bats may have similar detection strategies.

The study results shed new light on the possibilities of human echolocation, providing greater detail and helpful guidance for echolocation instructors and new users, where they can turn their heads to more accurately locate objects and targets.

About this news about echolocation research

Author: Araf Din
Source: University of Durham
Contact: Araf Din – University of Durham
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Closed access.
Human echolocators have better off-axis localizationby Lore Thaler et al. psychological science

Also see

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Abstract

Human echolocators have better off-axis localization

Here we report new empirical results from a psychophysical experiment in which we tested the echolocation abilities of nine blind adult human experts in click-based echolocation.

We found that they had better acuity in locating a target and used lower intensity emissions (ie mouth clicks) when a target was placed 45° to the side compared to when placed at 0° (straight ahead).

We offer a possible explanation for the behavioral outcome in terms of binaural intensity signals, which seem to change faster around 45°.

The finding that echo locators have better off-axis echo localization is surprising, because for human source localization (i.e., regular spatial hearing) it is well known that performance is best when targets are straight ahead (0°) and decreases as targets go further. move to the side.

This may indicate that human echolocation and source hearing are dependent on different acoustic signals and that human spatial hearing has more facets than previously thought.

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