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Theoretical analysis of pre-receptor image conditioning in weakly electric fish.

Author(s): Migliaro Adriana | Caputi Angel A | Budelli Ruben

Journal: PLoS Computational Biology
ISSN 1553-734X

Volume: 1;
Issue: 2;
Start page: e16;
Date: 2005;
Original page

Electroreceptive fish detect nearby objects by processing the information contained in the pattern of electric currents through the skin. The distribution of local transepidermal voltage or current density on the sensory surface of the fish's skin is the electric image of the surrounding environment. This article reports a model study of the quantitative effect of the conductance of the internal tissues and the skin on electric image generation in Gnathonemus petersii (G√ľnther 1862). Using realistic modelling, we calculated the electric image of a metal object on a simulated fish having different combinations of internal tissues and skin conductances. An object perturbs an electric field as if it were a distribution of electric sources. The equivalent distribution of electric sources is referred to as an object's imprimence. The high conductivity of the fish body lowers the load resistance of a given object's imprimence, increasing the electric image. It also funnels the current generated by the electric organ in such a way that the field and the imprimence of objects in the vicinity of the rostral electric fovea are enhanced. Regarding skin conductance, our results show that the actual value is in the optimal range for transcutaneous voltage modulation by nearby objects. This result suggests that "voltage" is the answer to the long-standing question as to whether current or voltage is the effective stimulus for electroreceptors. Our analysis shows that the fish body should be conceived as an object that interacts with nearby objects, conditioning the electric image. The concept of imprimence can be extended to other sensory systems, facilitating the identification of features common to different perceptual systems.
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