The Jamming Avoidance Response in an Electric Fish: Algorithms in Sensory Information Processing and their Neuronal Realization

  • Walter Heiligenberg
Part of the NATO Advanced Science Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 56)


The electrosensory system of South American (gymnotiform) and African (mormyriform) electric fish has become a favorite model system to study the integration of sensory information and the resulting control of behavioral responses. Advantages of this particular system are manifold:
  1. (1)

    Even complex electric stimulus regimes, such as those which result by interference of signals from several fish, can readily be simulated with the aid of computers and other electronic equipment.

  2. (2)

    Electroreceptors are spread out over the animal’s body surface and can thus be stimulated locally and individually.

  3. (3)

    Certain behavioral responses, such as the Jamming Avoidance Responses (JARs) in gymnotiform fish, remain intact even in neurophysiological preparations. This fact considerably facilitates the identification of the role of specific classes of neurons in the control of this behavior.

  4. (4)

    Most species of electric fish are small (several centimeters to decimeters) and their complete brains can be spread out on a small number of microscope slides. However, regardless of their small size, these brains show richly laminated and cortex-like structures which seem to execute algorithms of sensory information processing very similar to those in higher vertebrates.



Electric Organ Discharge Electric Fish Differential Phase Instantaneous Amplitude Torus Semicircularis 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter Heiligenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Neurobiology UnitScripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSDLa JollaUSA

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