DEVELOPING A ROBUST APPETITIVE-CONDITIONING PARADIGM IN LARVAL ZEBRAFISH
Amber Simmons1, Su Guo2, Francesca Oltrabella2, Adam Abate2, Kristen Taylor2, Emily Bryant2.
1Hampton University, Hampton, VA, 2University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a widely used model organism in vertebrate biology, with its optical clarity, external development, and amenability to efficient genetic and chemical screening. These salient features allow for cellular and molecular mechanisms to be understood in relation to developmental and disease-oriented pathways. Avoidance-learning paradigms have been studied extensively in wild-type zebrafish with definitive results that show their ability to associate visual conditioned stimuli with aversive unconditioned stimuli as early as 7 days post fertilization (dpf). However, reward learning, a process implicated in mental disorders such as addiction, has not been explored with nearly the same depth. We are developing a robust appetitive conditioning paradigm that aims to teach larval zebrafish to associate neutral sensory cues (feeding tube) with a food reward (Paramecia). A computer automated microfluidic feeding system and video-recording device allow the larvae to be continuously observed and tested. Preliminary results showed an apprehension in approaching the food for larvae, which seemed to be caused by stress and lack of socialization. Following device optimization, recorded videos have begun to show routine feeding behavior. The next steps include optimization of the testing arena, statistical analysis of preliminary feeding-behavior data, and conditioning experiments organized and implemented using preliminary feeding data. Data collected will be used to uncover the neurobiology of reward learning and characterize genes and cell types involved in the process.