Closed-loop stabilization of the Jamming Avoidance Response reveals its locally unstable and globally nonlinear dynamics

Manu S. Madhav, Sarah A. Stamper, Eric S. Fortune, Noah J. Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The Jamming Avoidance Response, or JAR, in the weakly electric fish has been analyzed at all levels of organization, from wholeorganism behavior down to specific ion channels. Nevertheless, a parsimonious description of the JAR behavior in terms of a dynamical system model has not been achieved at least in part due to the fact that 'avoidance' behaviors are both intrinsically unstable and nonlinear. We overcame the instability of the JAR in Eigenmannia virescens by closing a feedback loop around the behavioral response of the animal. Specifically, the instantaneous frequency of a jamming stimulus was tied to the fish's own electrogenic frequency by a feedback law. Without feedback, the fish's own frequency diverges from the stimulus frequency, but appropriate feedback stabilizes the behavior. After stabilizing the system, we measured the responses in the fish's instantaneous frequency to various stimuli. A delayed first-order linear system model fitted the behavior near the equilibrium. Coherence to white noise stimuli together with quantitative agreement across stimulus types supported this local linear model. Next, we examined the intrinsic nonlinearity of the behavior using clamped frequency difference experiments to extend the model beyond the neighborhood of the equilibrium. The resulting nonlinear model is composed of competing motor return and sensory escape terms. The model reproduces responses to step and ramp changes in the difference frequency (df) and predicts a 'snap-through' bifurcation as a function of dF that we confirmed experimentally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4272-4284
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


  • Dynamical systems modeling
  • Eigenmannia
  • Electrosensory system
  • Feedback


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