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PLoS One. 2018 Apr 11;13(4):e0194347. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194347. eCollection 2018.

Physiological evidence of sensory integration in the electrosensory lateral line lobe of Gnathonemus petersii.

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University of Bonn, Institute for Zoology, Bonn, Germany.
UNIC, CNRS, 1 Avenue de la Terrasse, Gif-sur Yvette, France.
University of Bielefeld, Biology - AG Active Sensing, Bielefeld, Germany.


Mormyrid fish rely on reafferent input for active electrolocation. Their electrosensory input consists of phase and amplitude information. These are encoded by differently tuned receptor cells within the Mormyromasts, A- and B-cells, respectively, which are distributed over the animal's body. These convey their information to two topographically ordered medullary zones in the electrosensory lateral line lobe (ELL). The so-called medial zone receives only amplitude information, while the dorsolateral zone receives amplitude and phase information. Using both sources of information, Mormyrid fish can disambiguate electrical impedances. Where and how this disambiguation takes place is presently unclear. We here investigate phase-sensitivity downstream from the electroreceptors. We provide first evidence of phase-sensitivity in the medial zone of ELL. In this zone I-cells consistently decreased their rate to positive phase-shifts (6 of 20 cells) and increased their rate to negative shifts (11/20), while E-cells of the medial zone (3/9) responded oppositely to I-cells. In the dorsolateral zone the responses of E- and I-cells were opposite to those found in the medial zone. Tracer injections revealed interzonal projections that interconnect the dorsolateral and medial zones in a somatotopic manner. In summary, we show that phase information is processed differently in the dorsolateral and the medial zones. This is the first evidence for a mechanism that enhances the contrast between two parallel sensory channels in Mormyrid fish. This could be beneficial for impedance discrimination that ultimately must rely on a subtractive merging of these two sensory streams.

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