Mormyromast electroreceptor organs and their afferent fibers in mormyrid fish. III. Physiological differences between two morphological types of fibers

J Neurophysiol. 1990 Feb;63(2):319-32. doi: 10.1152/jn.1990.63.2.319.


1. Mormyromast electroreceptor organs in electric fish of the family Mormyridae have two types of separately innervated sensory cells, the A and B sensory cells of Szabo and Wersall. The first paper in this series showed anatomically that afferent fibers from the two types of sensory cell terminate centrally in separate zones of the electrosensory lateral line lobe (ELL), fibers from A cells terminating in the medial zone and fibers from B cells terminating in the dorsolateral zone. The goal of the present study was to determine the physiological differences between the two morphologically distinct types of mormyromast afferent fibers. 2. The present study has two parts. In the first part, mormyromast fibers were recorded near their central terminals in the two mormyromast zones of ELL. In the second part, mormyromast fibers were recorded from a peripheral electrosensory nerve. In both parts, various electrosensory stimuli were delivered and voltage thresholds were measured at the electroreceptor. 3. In the first part of the study, mormyromast fibers terminating in the two central zones were found to be different in their thresholds and in the maximum number of spikes evoked by a single stimulus. Afferent fibers terminating in the medial zone, which arise from A sensory cells, had higher thresholds and smaller maximum spike numbers than fibers terminating in the dorsolateral zone, which arise from B sensory cells. 4. In the second part of the study, the same two groups of fibers--one group with a high threshold and a small maximum spike number, and a second group with a low threshold and a large maximum spike number--were identified in extracellular recordings from a peripheral electrosensory nerve. The thresholds of the two groups were quite distinct, allowing the fibers to be divided into high- and low-threshold groups, which most likely represent the fibers from the A and B sensory cells, respectively. 5. The high- and low-threshold groups of fibers recorded from peripheral nerve were found to be different in a number of additional properties besides threshold and maximum spike number. Additional differences were found in the following properties: strength-duration curve, correlation with a receptor potential recorded at the electroreceptor, tuning curve, and short latency facilitation by a conditioning stimulus. Thus there appear to be several physiological differences between mormyromast afferent fibers from A and B sensory cells, in addition to the differences in threshold and spike number.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Electric Organ / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Species Specificity