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Behav Brain Res. 2010 Feb 11;207(1):99-104. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.09.043. Epub 2009 Oct 2.

Associative learning in zebrafish (Danio rerio) in the plus maze.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.


Zebrafish has been gaining increasing amount of interest in behavioral neuroscience as this species may represent a good compromise between system complexity and practical simplicity. Particularly successful have been those studies that utilized zebrafish as a screening tool. Given the complexity of the mechanisms of learning, for example, forward genetic screens with zebrafish could potentially reveal previously unknown genes and molecular pathways that subserve this function. These screens, however, require appropriate phenotypical (e.g. behavioral) paradigms. A step in this direction is the characterization of learning abilities of zebrafish. Here we employ two classical learning tasks in a plus maze. In the first, zebrafish are required to associate a visible cue with food reward irrespective of the location of this pairing. In the second, zebrafish are required to associate the spatial location of food reward irrespective of intra-maze cues. Our results demonstrate that zebrafish perform well in both tasks and show significant acquisition of the association between cue and reward as well as between location and reward. We conclude that zebrafish, similar to classical laboratory rodents, may have utility in the biological analysis of simple as well as complex forms of associative learning.

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