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. 1988 Aug;163(4):465-78.
doi: 10.1007/BF00604901.

Sex Recognition and Neuronal Coding of Electric Organ Discharge Waveform in the Pulse-Type Weakly Electric Fish, Hypopomus Occidentalis

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Sex Recognition and Neuronal Coding of Electric Organ Discharge Waveform in the Pulse-Type Weakly Electric Fish, Hypopomus Occidentalis

C A Shumway et al. J Comp Physiol A. .

Abstract

1. Hypopomus occidentalis, a weakly electric gymnotiform fish with a pulse-type discharge, has a sexually dimorphic electric organ discharge (Hagedorn 1983). The electric organ discharges (EODs) of males in the breeding season are longer in duration and have a lower peak-power frequency than the EODs of females. We tested reproductively mature fish in the field by presenting electronically generated stimuli in which the only cue for sex recognition was the waveshape of individual EOD-like pulses in a train. We found that gravid females could readily discriminate male-like from female-like EOD waveshapes, and we conclude that this feature of the electric signal is sufficient for sex recognition. 2. To understand the possible neural bases for discrimination of male and female EODs by H . occidentalis, we conducted a neurophysiological examination of both peripheral and central neurons. Our studies show that there are sets of neurons in this species which can discriminate male or female EODs by coding either temporal or spectral features of the EOD. 3. Temporal encoding of stimulus duration was observed in evoked field potential recordings from the magnocellular nucleus of the midbrain torus semicircularis. This nucleus indirectly receives pulse marker electroreceptor information. The field potentials suggest that comparison is possible between pulse marker activity on opposite sides of the body. 4. From standard frequency-threshold curves, spectral encoding of stimulus peak-power frequency was measured in burst duration coder electroreceptor afferents. In both male and female fish, the best frequencies of the narrow-band population of electroreceptors were lower than the peak-power frequency of the EOD. Based on this observation, and the presence of a population of wide-band receptors which can serve as a frequency-independent amplitude reference, a slope-detection model of frequency discrimination is advanced. 5. Spectral discrimination of EOD peak-power frequency was also shown to be possible in a more natural situation similar to that present during behavioral discrimination. As the fish's EOD mimic slowly scanned through and temporally coincided with the neighbor's EOD mimic, peak spike rate in burst duration coder afferents was measured. Spike rate at the moment of coincidence changed predictably as a function of the neighbor's EOD peak-power frequency. 6. Single-unit threshold measurements were made on afferents from peripheral burst duration coder receptors in the amplitude-coding pathway, and midbrain giant cells in the time-coding pathway.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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