Intrinsic frequency tuning in ELL pyramidal cells varies across electrosensory maps

J Neurophysiol. 2008 May;99(5):2641-55. doi: 10.1152/jn.00028.2008. Epub 2008 Mar 26.


The tuning of neuronal responsiveness to specific stimulus frequencies is an important computation across many sensory modalities. The weakly electric fish Apteronotus leptorhynchus detects amplitude modulations of a self-generated quasi-sinusoidal electric organ discharge to sense its environment. These fish have to parse a complicated electrosensory environment with a wide range of possible frequency content. One solution has been to create multiple representations of the sensory input across distinct maps in the electrosensory lateral line lobe (ELL) that participate in distinct behavioral functions. E- and I-type pyramidal cells in the ELL that process sensory input further exhibit a preferred range of stimulus frequencies in relation to the different behaviors and sensory maps. We tested the hypothesis that variations in the intrinsic spiking mechanism of E- and I-type pyramidal cells contribute to map-specific frequency tuning. We find that E-cells exhibit a systematic change in their intrinsic spike characteristics and frequency tuning across sensory maps, whereas I-cells are constant in both spike characteristics and frequency tuning. As frequency tuning becomes more high-pass in E-cells, the refractory variables of spike half-width and afterhyperpolarization magnitude increase, spike threshold increases, adaptation becomes faster, and the gain of the spiking response decreases. These findings indicate that frequency tuning across sensory maps in the ELL is supported by differences in the intrinsic spike characteristics of pyramidal cells, revealing a link between cellular biophysical properties and signal processing in sensory maps with defined behavioral roles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Lateral Line System / cytology*
  • Lateral Line System / physiology*
  • Microelectrodes
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*


  • neurobiotin
  • Biotin