Cellular and circuit properties supporting different sensory coding strategies in electric fish and other systems

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Aug;22(4):686-92. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2012.01.009. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Neural codes often seem tailored to the type of information they must carry. Here we contrast the encoding strategies for two different communication signals in electric fish and describe the underlying cellular and network properties that implement them. We compare an aggressive signal that needs to be quickly detected, to a courtship signal whose quality needs to be evaluated. The aggressive signal is encoded by synchronized bursts and a predictive feedback input is crucial in separating background noise from the communication signal. The courtship signal is accurately encoded through a heterogenous population response allowing the discrimination of signal differences. Most importantly we show that the same strategies are used in other systems arguing that they evolved similar solutions because they faced similar tasks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animal Communication
  • Animals
  • Electric Fish* / anatomy & histology
  • Electric Fish* / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Nervous System / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*