The electrosensory lateral line lobe (ELL) of weakly electric fish is the only nucleus that receives direct input from peripheral electroreceptor afferents. This review summarises the neurotransmitters, receptors and second messengers identified in the intrinsic circuitry of the ELL and the extrinsic descending direct and indirect feedback pathways, as revealed by recent in vitro and in vivo studies. Several hypotheses of circuitry function are examined on this basis and on the basis of recent functional evidence: (1) fast primary afferent excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) and fast granule cell 2 GABAA inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) suggest the involvement of basilar pyramidal cells in coincidence detection; (2) voltage-dependent EPSPs and IPSPs, dendritic spike bursts and frequency-dependent synaptic facilitation support a sensory searchlight role for the direct feedback pathway; and (3) the contributions of distal and proximal inhibition, anti-Hebbian plasticity and beam versus isolated fiber activity patterns are discussed with reference to an adaptive spatio-temporal filtering role for the indirect descending pathway.

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