Automatic Realistic Real Time Stimulation/Recording in Weakly Electric Fish: Long Time Behavior Characterization in Freely Swimming Fish and Stimuli Discrimination

Weakly electric fish are unique model systems in neuroethology, that allow experimentalists to non-invasively, access, central nervous system generated spatio-temporal electric patterns of pulses with roles in at least 2 complex and incompletely understood abilities: electrocommunication and electrolocation. Pulse-type electric fish alter their inter pulse intervals (IPIs) according to different behavioral contexts as aggression, hiding and mating. Nevertheless, only a few behavioral studies comparing the influence of different stimuli IPIs in the fish electric response have been conducted. We developed an apparatus that allows real time automatic realistic stimulation and simultaneous recording of electric pulses in freely moving Gymnotus carapo for several days. We detected and recorded pulse timestamps independently of the fish’s position for days. A stimulus fish was mimicked by a dipole electrode that reproduced the voltage time series of real conspecific according to previously recorded timestamp sequences. We characterized fish behavior and the eletrocommunication in 2 conditions: stimulated by IPIs pre-recorded from other fish and random IPI ones. All stimuli pulses had the exact Gymontus carapo waveform. All fish presented a surprisingly long transient exploratory behavior (more than 8 h) when exposed to a new environment in the absence of electrical stimuli. Further, we also show that fish are able to discriminate between real and random stimuli distributions by changing several characteristics of their IPI distribution.

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