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Zebrafish. 2006;3(2):157-71. doi: 10.1089/zeb.2006.3.157.

Neuropsychology of learning and memory in teleost fish.

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  • 1Laboratory of Psychobiology, University of Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain. cosme@us.es


Traditionally, brain and behavior evolution was viewed as an anagenetic process that occurred in successive stages of increasing complexity and advancement. Fishes, considered the most primitive vertebrates, were supposed to have a scarcely differentiated telencephalon, and limited learning capabilities. However, recent developmental, neuroanatomical, and functional data indicate that the evolution of brain and behavior may have been more conservative than previously thought. Experimental data suggest that the properties and neural basis of learning and memory are notably similar among teleost fish and land vertebrates. For example, lesion studies show that the teleost cerebellum is essential in classical conditioning of discrete motor responses. The lateral telencephalic pallium of the teleost fish, proposed as homologous to the hippocampus, is selectively involved in spatial learning and memory, and in trace classical conditioning. In contrast, the medial pallium, considered homologous to the amygdala, is involved in emotional conditioning in teleost fish. The data reviewed here show a remarkable parallelism between mammals and teleost fish concerning the role of different brain centers in learning and memory and cognitive processes. These evidences suggest that these separate memory systems could have appeared early during the evolution of vertebrates, having been conserved through phylogenesis.

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