Traditionally, zebrafish have been used in genetic testing for their ease of breeding and manipulation. In our lab, we use a zebrafish model to analyze stress, anxiety and pharmacological treatment. The novel tank exposure paradigm is an ethological model that utilizes the zebrafish's natural response to initially dive and bottom dwell in novel environments, and then gradually explore over time. The latency to explore the top half of the environment, as well as time spent in the top half, number of transitions, frequency of erratic movements, freezing, jumping, and velocity are several behavioral endpoints used to assess levels of anxiety.
Other models include predator exposure, social interactions, alarm pheromone exposure and shoaling behavior assessment. We are also studying the effects of different stressors on zebrafish physiology (stress hormones, such as cortisol) and gene expression. Zebrafish are also highly sensitive to various pharmacological treatments, such as anxiolytics, anxiogenics, and antidepressants. Although zebrafish neurophenotyping is relatively simple in its design and yields robust response, the inclusion of video tracking makes this model widely reproducible, resulting in a truly high throughput model useful for pharmacological screening.