Spatial and non-spatial visual discrimination learning in zebrafish (Danio rerio)
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) provide an excellent model for assessment of molecular processes of neurodevelopment. To determine the functional importance of molecular events during neurodevelopment, we have developed methods for assessing learning in zebrafish in a three-chambered fish tank. In the first study, simple escape response was assessed. Zebrafish tested with a moving net learned to escape to another chamber more rapidly over the six sessions of training than the fish with the still net which did not learn. Upon reversal of the contingencies, the fish switched to the inactive net rapidly learned to suppress the escape response and fish formerly in the inactive net condition learned to avoid the moving net. In the second study, spatial discrimination learning was assessed. Zebrafish were trained on a right-left position discrimination to avoid the active net. Zebrafish showed significant improvement in escape responses over six sessions of training with three trials per session. In the third study, red-blue non-spatial discrimination learning was assessed. There was a significant improvement over the first six training sessions. With the reversal of contingencies, there was a significant decline of performance. With continued training, the fish again significantly improved avoidance. These studies found an effective motivational stimulus and procedure for studying escape behavior in zebrafish; a procedure whereby zebrafish would learn both spatial and non-spatial discrimination. These methods are being developed to help determine the functional importance of molecular events during zebrafish neurodevelopment.
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