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A role for GABAergic inhibition in electrosensory processing and common mode rejection in the dorsal nucleus of the little skate, Raja erinacea

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The electrosensory primary afferents in elasmobranchs are responsive to electric potentials created by the animal's own ventilation, while the second-order neurons (AENs) which receive this afferent input in the medulla suppress responses to ventilatory potentials but retain their extreme sensitivity to electric signals in the environment. Ventilatory potentials are common mode signals in elasmobranchs and a common mode rejection mechanism is one way the AENs suppress ventilatory noise. By pressure injecting the GABA-A receptor antagonist SR95531 while extracellularly recording from AENs, we tested the hypothesis that the subtractive circuitry that selectively reduces common mode signals in AENs utilizes GABA, and that a GAB-Aergic component of the dorsal nucleus commissural pathway mediates crossed inhibition of AENs. Local application of SR95531 increased the spontaneous activity and the responsiveness of AENs to electrosensory stimuli. AEN responses to a common mode stimulus were selectively increased compared to responses to a localized stimulus due to SR95531 application. Contralateral inhibition of AENs was blocked by SR95531, indicating that GABAergic commissural cells may inhibit AENs when the contralateral side of the body is stimulated, as with common mode stimulation. We conclude that GABAergic inhibition contributes significantly to the shaping of AEN responses including common mode rejection.

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AENs :

ascending efferent neurons


gamma-aminobutyric acid


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Duman, C.H., Bodznick, D. A role for GABAergic inhibition in electrosensory processing and common mode rejection in the dorsal nucleus of the little skate, Raja erinacea . J Comp Physiol A 179, 797–807 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00207358

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Key words

  • Dorsal octavolateralis nucleus
  • Elasmobranch, Electroreception
  • GABA
  • Noise suppression