Learning to predict the component in the sensory information resulting from the organism's own activity enables it to respond appropriately to unexpected stimuli. For example, the elasmobranch dorsal octavolateral nucleus (DON) can apparently extract the unexpected component (i.e. generated by nearby organisms) from the incoming electrosensory signals. Here we introduce a novel and unique experimental approach that combines the advantages of in vitro preparations with the integrity of in vivo conditions. In such an experimental system one can study, under control conditions, the cellular and network mechanisms that underlie cancellation of expected sensory inputs. Using extracellular and intracellular recordings we compared the dynamics and spatiotemporal organization of the electrosensory afferent nerve and parallel fiber inputs to the DON. The afferent nerve has a low threshold and high conduction velocity; a stimulus that recruits a small number of fibers is sufficient to activate the principal neurons. The excitatory postsynaptic potential in the principal cells evoked by afferent nerve fibers has fast kinetics that efficiently reach the threshold for action potential. In contrast, the parallel fibers have low conduction velocity, high threshold and extensive convergence on the principal neurons of the DON. The excitatory postsynaptic response has slow kinetics that provides a wide time window for integration of inputs. The highly efficient connection between the afferent nerve and the principal neurons in the DON indicates that filtration occurring in the DON cannot be mediated simply by summation of the parallel fibers' signals with the afferent sensory signals. Hence we propose that the filtering may be mediated via secondary neurons that adjust the principal neurons' sensitivity to afferent inputs.
- Synaptic interactions