Omnidirectional sensory and motor volumes in electric fish

TitleOmnidirectional sensory and motor volumes in electric fish
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsSnyder, J. B., M. E. Nelson, J. W. Burdick, and M. A. MacIver
JournalPLoS biology

Active sensing organisms, such as bats, dolphins, and weakly electric fish, generate a 3-D space for active sensation by emitting self-generated energy into the environment. For a weakly electric fish, we demonstrate that the electrosensory space for prey detection has an unusual, omnidirectional shape. We compare this sensory volume with the animal's motor volume—the volume swept out by the body over selected time intervals and over the time it takes to come to a stop from typical hunting velocities. We find that the motor volume has a similar omnidirectional shape, which can be attributed to the fish's backward-swimming capabilities and body dynamics. We assessed the electrosensory space for prey detection by analyzing simulated changes in spiking activity of primary electrosensory afferents during empirically measured and synthetic prey capture trials. The animal's motor volume was reconstructed from video recordings of body motion during prey capture behavior. Our results suggest that in weakly electric fish, there is a close connection between the shape of the sensory and motor volumes. We consider three general spatial relationships between 3-D sensory and motor volumes in active and passive-sensing animals, and we examine hypotheses about these relationships in the context of the volumes we quantify for weakly electric fish. We propose that the ratio of the sensory volume to the motor volume provides insight into behavioral control strategies across all animals.

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