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Addict Biol. 2019 Sep;24(5):898-907. doi: 10.1111/adb.12649. Epub 2018 Sep 4.

Social deficits following embryonic ethanol exposure arise in post-larval zebrafish.

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University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Tx, USA.


Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading cause of birth defects, collectively termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). In the United States and Canada, 1 in 100 children will be born with FASD. Some of the most commonly debilitating defects of FASD are in social behavior. Zebrafish are highly social animals, and embryonic ethanol exposure from 24 to 26 hours post-fertilization disrupts this social (shoaling) response in adult zebrafish. Recent findings have suggested that social behaviors are present in zebrafish larvae as young as 3 weeks, but how they relate to adult shoaling is unclear. We tested the same ethanol-exposed zebrafish for social impairments at 3 weeks then again at 16 weeks. At both ages, live conspecifics were used to elicit a social response. We did not find alcohol-induced differences in behavior in 3-week-old fish when they were able to see conspecifics. We do find evidence that control zebrafish are able to use nonvisual stimuli to detect conspecifics, and this behavior is disrupted in the alcohol-exposed fish. As adults, these fish displayed a significant decrease in social behavior when conspecifics are visible. This surprising finding demonstrates that the adult and larval social behaviors are, at least partly, separable. Future work will investigate the nature of these nonvisual cues and how the neurocircuitry differs between the larval and adult social behaviors.


adult; fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; larva; social behavior; zebrafish

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