Elasmobranch fishes have an electroreceptive system which they use for prey detection and orientation. Sensory inputs in this system are corrupted by a form of reafference generated by the animal's own ventilation. However, we show here that in the carpet shark, Cephaloscylium isabella, as in two previously studied batoid species, this ventilatory ‘noise’ is reduced by sensory processing within the medullary nucleus of the electrosensory system. It has been proposed that the noise cancellation is achieved by a common mode rejection mechanism. One prediction of this hypothesis is that secondary neurons within the medullary nucleus should have both excitatory and inhibitory components to their receptive fields. This prediction is experimentally verified here. Projection neurons of the medullary nucleus in the carpet shark typically have a focal excitatory, and a diffuse inhibitory, receptive field organization including a component of contralateral inhibition. This result provides strong support for the hypothesis that ventilatory suppression in the elasmobranch electrosensory system is achieved by a common mode mechanism.

Note: Department of Biology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06457, USA.

Present address: Department of Zoology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

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