Electrosensory processing in Apteronotus albifrons: implications for general and specific neural coding strategies across wave-type weakly electric fish species

J Neurophysiol. 2016 Dec 1;116(6):2909-2921. doi: 10.1152/jn.00594.2016. Epub 2016 Sep 28.


Understanding how the brain processes sensory input to generate behavior remains an important problem in neuroscience. Towards this end, it is useful to compare results obtained across multiple species to gain understanding as to the general principles of neural coding. Here we investigated hindbrain pyramidal cell activity in the weakly electric fish Apteronotus albifrons We found strong heterogeneities when looking at baseline activity. Additionally, ON- and OFF-type cells responded to increases and decreases of sinusoidal and noise stimuli, respectively. While both cell types displayed band-pass tuning, OFF-type cells were more broadly tuned than their ON-type counterparts. The observed heterogeneities in baseline activity as well as the greater broadband tuning of OFF-type cells were both similar to those previously reported in other weakly electric fish species, suggesting that they constitute general features of sensory processing. However, we found that peak tuning occurred at frequencies ∼15 Hz in A. albifrons, which is much lower than values reported in the closely related species Apteronotus leptorhynchus and the more distantly related species Eigenmannia virescens In response to stimuli with time-varying amplitude (i.e., envelope), ON- and OFF-type cells displayed similar high-pass tuning curves characteristic of fractional differentiation and possibly indicate optimized coding. These tuning curves were qualitatively similar to those of pyramidal cells in the closely related species A. leptorhynchus In conclusion, comparison between our and previous results reveals general and species-specific neural coding strategies. We hypothesize that differences in coding strategies, when observed, result from different stimulus distributions in the natural/social environment.

Keywords: behavior; envelopes; neural coding; tuning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Electric Organ / cytology*
  • Electric Organ / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Movement
  • Noise
  • Pyramidal Cells / classification*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Factors