Gain control in the electrosensory system: a role for the descending projections to the electrosensory lateral line lobe
- Cite this article as:
- Bastian, J. J. Comp. Physiol. (1986) 158: 505. doi:10.1007/BF00603796
The responses of E-cells, basilar pyramidal cells, of the electrosensory lateral line lobe (ELLL) were studied in normal animals (Apteronotus leptorhynchus) and in fish in which a component of the descending input from the midbrain n. praeeminentialis to the ELLL was interrupted by lesions or by application of local anesthetics. This treatment increased the responsiveness of these neurons by 100 to 300%.
A method is described by which the animal's electric organ discharge (EOD) can be increased or decreased in amplitude. Responses of E-cells to a brief stationary electrosensory stimulus and to moving electrolocation targets were studied in normal and in lesioned animals with normal and altered EOD amplitudes.
Large reductions in EOD amplitude, approximately 50%, result in no significant changes in the average size of E-cell responses to either type of electrosensory stimulus in normal animals. Interruption of the descending input, however, results in a loss of the E-cells' ability to maintain constant response size when the EOD amplitude is reduced.
Increases in EOD amplitude cause reductions in the size of E-cell responses to the moving electrolocation targets and to the stationary stimulus. The effects of increased EOD amplitude are present in normal animals and in animals in which the descending input is interrupted.
The descending input to the ELLL seems to function as a gain control mechanism that is capable of compensating for losses in stimulus strength resulting from reduced EOD amplitude. The component of the descending input studied here does not seem to play a role in the response of the system to increases in EOD amplitude. These results are discussed in conjunction with the known details of the ELLL circuitry and its connections with other brain areas.
electric organ discharge
electrosensory lateral line lobe
posterior eminentia granularis