A Golgi study of the cell types of the dorsal torus semicircularis of the electric fish Eigenmannia: Functional and morphological diversity in the midbrain


  • Catherine E. Carr,

    1. Neurobiology Unit, A-002, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, La Jolla, California 92093
    Current affiliation:
    1. Dept. of Biology, 216–76, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125
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  • Leonard Maler

    1. Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ontario K1N 9A9 Canada
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The dorsal torus semicircularis (torus) of the gymnotiform fish Eigenmannia was examined in Golgi impregnated material. These results were correlated with those of a previous HRP study which used retrograde labelling techniques to identify the efferent cell types of the torus (Carr et al., '81, J. Comp Neurol. 203: 649–670).

The torus is a laminated midbrain nucleus of the electrosensory system. It receives somatotopically ordered electrosensory input from the medulla and caudal lobe of the cerebellum, proprioceptive input from the descending nucleus of the trigeminal nerve, and input from the optic tectum. The torus projects to the nucleus praeeminentialis, the optic tectum, nucleus electrosensorius, parts of the central posterior thalamus, the pretectum, the lateral mesencephalic reticular formation (LMRA), the reticular formation, and the inferior olive.

The torus has 12 laminae and 48 cell types by Golgi criteria. There are three major orientations to the dendritic fields of the toral neurons: (1) purely horizontal neurons with dendrites confined to a single lamina, (2) multipolar neurons whose dendrites often do not respect laminar boundaries, and (3) vertical cells with dendrites that travel in the vertical bundles of dendrites and axons which pierce the torus at regular intervals.

There are four major groups of vertically oriented neurons. The first has a predominantly horizontal dendritic tree with one or two vertical dendrites which connect the cell to a distant lamina. The second consists of “U”-shaped neurons with a horizontal arbor and two major dendrites which ascend in adjacent vertical bundles. The third group is made up of bilaminar neurons which receive input from two vertically separated dendritic arbors, and the fourth group is purely vertical in orientation. A group of four tegmental cell types in the LMRA also send their dendrites into the efferent tracts of the torus, and into lamina IX.

The torus is similar in complexity and number of cell types to the mammalian inferior colliculus. The large number of cell types in these midbrain sensory nuclei, compared to the number of afferent inputs (seven or more for the torus) is notable and may reflect the parcellation of function associated with the parallel processing of these inputs.