Peripheral electrosensory imaging by weakly electric fish

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2006 Jun;192(6):587-600. doi: 10.1007/s00359-006-0100-2. Epub 2006 Feb 25.


Different species have developed different solutions to the problem of constructing a representation of the environment from sensory images projected onto sensory surfaces. Comprehension of how these images are formed is an essential first step in understanding the representation of external reality by a given sensory system. Modeling of the electrical sensory images of objects began with the discovery of electroreception and continues to provide general insights into the mechanisms of imaging. Progress in electric image research has made it possible to establish the physical basis of electric imaging, as well as methods to accurately predict the electric images of objects alone and as a part of a natural electric scene. In this review, we show the following. (1) The internal low resistance of the fish's body shapes the image in two different ways: by funneling the current generated by the electric organ to the sensory surface, it increases the fields rostrally, thus enhancing the perturbation produced by nearby objects; and by increasing the projected image. (2) The electric fish's self-generated currents are modified by capacitive objects in a distinctive manner. These modulations can be detected by different receptor types, yielding the possibility of "electric color." (3) The effects of different objects in a scene interact with each other, generating an image that is different from the simple addition of the images of individual objects, thus causing strong contextual effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Electric Organ / physiology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*