A model to study orienting responses in zebrafish, and applications towards the emotion–cognition interaction

Abstract

Orienting responses (ORs) are whole-organism reflexes that are elicited by innocuous stimuli, and which decrease in magnitude after stimulus repetition. ORs represent relatively simple responses that can be used to study attentional processes, and are modulated by the organism’s state, including arousal and activation levels, as well as by emotional processes. Here we describe a simple method to study ORs in zebrafish, a model organism increasingly being used in behavioural neuroscience. After presentation of a static visual stimulus, an OR is elicited, characterized by approaching the stimulus and orienting towards it. After repeated stimulation, OR decreases, suggesting habituation. These responses are qualitatively altered by exposure to a fear-eliciting alarm substance (i.e., derived from the skin of a conspecific), since exposed animals avoid the visual stimulus and orient either away from the stimulus or towards it, but at a distance. The protocol can be used to study orienting responses, as well as the impact of fear and arousal on these reflexes.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq/Brazil) grant (Edital Universal 2016, #400726/2016-6). BGN was the recipient of a CNPq/Brazil scholarship.

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Correspondence to Caio Maximino.

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do Nascimento, B.G., Oliveira, H.S.T.O.e., Silva, H.T.L. et al. A model to study orienting responses in zebrafish, and applications towards the emotion–cognition interaction. Anim Cogn (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01403-1

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Keywords

  • Attention
  • Orienting
  • Zebrafish
  • Fear
  • Emotion-cognition interaction
  • Alarm substance