The projection regions of electroreceptor and mechanical lateral line afferents in electric fish of the mormyridae family are described.
Electroreceptor afferents from the posterior dorsal skin run in the dorsal branch of the posterior lateral line nerve. Electroreceptor afferents from ventral skin and mechanical lateral line afferents and efferents run in the ventral branch of the nerve. Horseradish peroxidase (HRP) injections into each branch resulted in filling of its central terminals with the marker enzyme. The method yields a Golgi-like staining of afferent terminals, allowing some aspects of their morphology to be described. Comparison of results from dorsal and ventral branch injections shows the separate medullary regions to which electroreceptor and mechanical afferents project, and also demonstrates four separate somatotopic maps within the electroreceptor region.
Mechanical afferents end predominantly ipsilaterally in nucleus anterior and eminentia granularis as has been suggested by others. Ipsilateral endings in nucleus octavius are also seen. Electroreceptor afferents end exclusively in the cortex and nucleus of posterior lateral line lobe (PLLL). Within the cortex there are three distinct maps of the skin surface which are separated from each other by discontinuities in the cellular layers. Somatotopic mapping is also present in the nucleus of PLLL though it is less precise than in the cortical zones. Large club endings of the cells of this nucleus are filled with HRP. Labeled cells are seen within a small midline nucleus located at the level of the eighth nerve just above the medial longitudinal fasciculus. These are probably the cell bodies of lateral line efferents.