Using a classic paper by bell as a platform for discussing the role of corollary discharge-like signals in sensory perception and movement control

Aaron L. Cecala, Elizabethtown College


Decades of behavioral observations have shown that invertebrate and vertebrate species have the ability to distinguish between self-generated afferent inputs versus those that are generated externally. In the present article, I describe activities focused around the discussion of a classic American Physiological Society paper by Curtis C. Bell that lays the foundation for students to investigate the neural substrate underlying this ability. Students will leave this activity being able to 1) describe the technical aspects and limitations of an electric fish preparation commonly used to acquire single unit (extracellular) neurophysiological data, 2) provide physiological evidence showing that the activity of principal cells in the posterior lateral line lobe of the electric fish brain reflects that of a reafference comparator that could be used in dissociating self-generated versus externally generated sensory signals, and 3) knowledgeably discuss hypotheses concerning the role of corollary discharge and cerebellar-like structures in vertebrate and invertebrate species. The skills and background knowledge gained in this activity lay the platform for advanced study of scientific investigations into sensory, motor, and cognitive processes in undergraduate, graduate, or medical school curricula. © 2014 The American Physiological Society.