Detection of transient synchrony across oscillating receptors by the central electrosensory system of mormyrid fish

  1. Alejandro Vélez
  2. Bruce A Carlson  Is a corresponding author
  1. Washington University in St. Louis, United States


Recently, we reported evidence for a novel mechanism of peripheral sensory coding based on oscillatory synchrony. Spontaneously oscillating electroreceptors in weakly electric fish (Mormyridae) respond to electrosensory stimuli with a phase reset that results in transient synchrony across the receptor population (Baker et al., 2015). Here, we asked whether the central electrosensory system actually detects the occurrence of synchronous oscillations among receptors. We found that electrosensory stimulation elicited evoked potentials in the midbrain exterolateral nucleus at a short latency following receptor synchronization. Frequency tuning in the midbrain resembled peripheral frequency tuning, which matches the intrinsic oscillation frequencies of the receptors. These frequencies are lower than those in individual conspecific signals, and instead match those found in collective signals produced by groups of conspecifics. Our results provide further support for a novel mechanism for sensory coding based on the detection of oscillatory synchrony among peripheral receptors.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Alejandro Vélez

    Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Bruce A Carlson

    Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


Animal experimentation: All procedures for housing, handling, and testing animals were performed in strict accordance with the guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health and were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (Animal Welfare Assurance Number: #A-3381-01) at Washington University in St. Louis. The protocol was approved by the Animal Studies Committee at Washington University in St. Louis (Approval Number: 20130265). Every effort was made to minimize pain and stress.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Ronald L Calabrese, Emory University, United States

Version history

  1. Received: April 12, 2016
  2. Accepted: June 20, 2016
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: June 21, 2016 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: July 20, 2016 (version 2)


© 2016, Vélez & Carlson

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Alejandro Vélez
  2. Bruce A Carlson
Detection of transient synchrony across oscillating receptors by the central electrosensory system of mormyrid fish
eLife 5:e16851.

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