Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London have shown thatzebrafish could be used to study the underlying causes ofpsychiatric disorders. The study, published online in the journal Behavioural Brain Research , found zebrafish can modify their behaviour in response to varyingsituations. Dr Caroline Brennan, from Queen Mary's School of Biological andChemical Sciences who led the study, said: "Zebrafish are becomingone of the most useful animal models for studying the developmentalgenetic mechanisms underlying many psychiatric disorders; theybreed prolifically and we have many new and exciting techniquesthat allow us to explore their genetic make-up in the laboratory." The scientists took 15 zebrafish through a series of experimentsinvolving colour choice to test aspects of behaviour associatedwith psychiatric disease. The fish were given a choice between two colours - they learnt tochoose one of the colours which gave them food. The colours werethen reversed and they learnt to change their colour choice. |
The scientists then introduced a new set of colours and started theprocess again. The fish were able to change their behaviouraccordingly, learning the new set of colours much faster than theoriginal set, a process psychologists call 'behaviouralflexibility'. The research challenges previous studies which suggested fish wereunable to elicit behavioural flexibility, unlike mammals andhumans, because they didn't have a frontal cortex. "Problems with behavioural flexibility, and general deficits inattention, are key symptoms displayed by people suffering a varietyof psychological disorders related to impulse control, such as drug addiction , attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD ) and some personality disorders ," Dr Brennan said.
"The results of our study suggest that there may be a role forzebrafish in the future as a useful comparative model to study thecause and prognosis of some of these disorders." Zebrafish are often used by neuroscientists to explore mechanismscontrolling behaviour and in the search for new compounds to treatbehavioural disease such as addiction, attention deficit disordersor autism . This study adds further weight to the argument for usingzebrafish in the study of these disorders and conditions. Additional References Citations.
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