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J Comp Physiol A. 1987 Aug;161(2):187-200.

Intracellular recording in the medullary pacemaker nucleus of the weakly electric fish, Apteronotus, during modulatory behaviors.


1. The weakly electric gymnotiform fish, Apteronotus leptorhynchus, can be induced to perform a variety of modulations of its quasi-sinusoidal, electric organ discharge (EOD) in acute physiological preparations. These modulations, many of which are communicatory in function, include the jamming avoidance response (JAR). We have recorded intracellularly from neurons of the medullary pacemaker nucleus which is responsible for maintaining the ongoing EOD frequency during these modulatory behaviors. 2. We have used dye-filled microelectrodes to characterize single cell morphology of the two types of cells in the pacemaker nucleus (relay and pacemaker cells) and to localize anatomically the site of the differing responses we see during frequency modulations. We have also recorded with KCl-filled electrodes and attributed these data to cell type and location on the basis of characteristic behavior during these modulations. 3. Much of our data deals with chirps, brief accelerations of the EOD frequency lasting 10 to 14 ms. We see distinct patterns of activity in the pacemaker nucleus corresponding to different anatomical locations: the relay cell soma and axon, and the pacemaker cell soma and axon. Most of these loci show a marked rise in baseline voltage during the acceleration in spike frequency. The most unusual of these is the pacemaker cell axon which displays an often extreme decline in spike amplitude concurrent with the chirp (Fig. 7A). 4. 'Yodeling' (Dye 1987) appears to involve similar, characteristic changes in the pattern of firing as those seen during chirping. Similar quantitative analyses suggest that the JAR involves a different mechanism, however.

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