Multisensory enhancement of electromotor responses to a single moving object

J Exp Biol. 2008 Sep;211(Pt 18):2919-30. doi: 10.1242/jeb.016154.


Weakly electric fish possess three cutaneous sensory organs structured in arrays with overlapping receptive fields. Theoretically, these tuberous electrosensory, ampullary electrosensory and mechanosensory lateral line receptors receive spatiotemporally congruent stimulation in the presence of a moving object. The current study is the first to quantify the magnitude of multisensory enhancement across these mechanosensory and electrosensory systems during moving-object recognition. We used the novelty response of a pulse-type weakly electric fish to quantitatively compare multisensory responses to their component unisensory responses. Principally, we discovered that multisensory novelty responses are significantly larger than their arithmetically summed component unisensory responses. Additionally, multimodal stimulation yielded a significant increase in novelty response amplitude, probability and the rate of a high-frequency burst, known as a ;scallop'. Supralinear multisensory enhancement of the novelty response may signify an augmentation of perception driven by the ecological significance of multimodal stimuli. Scalloping may function as a sensory scan aimed at rapidly facilitating the electrolocation of novel stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Electric Organ / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Electrophysiology