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Differences in Acute Alcohol-Induced Behavioral Responses Among Zebrafish Populations


  • This study was supported by an NIH/NIAAA grant (#1R01AA015325-01A2) to RG.

Reprint requests: Robert Gerlai, PhD, Department of Psychology, Rm 3035, University of Toronto, 3359 Mississauga Road, Mississauga, ON, Canada L5L 1C6; Fax: 905-569-4326; E-mail:


Background:  With the arsenal of genetic tools available for zebrafish, this species has been successfully used to investigate the genetic aspects of human diseases from developmental disorders to cancer. Interest in the behavior and brain function of zebrafish is also increasing as CNS disorders may be modeled and studied with this species. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are among the most devastating and costliest diseases. However, the mechanisms of these diseases are not fully understood. Zebrafish has been proposed as a model organism to study such mechanisms. Characterization of alcohol’s effects on zebrafish is a necessary step in this research.

Methods:  Here, we compare the effects of acute alcohol (EtOH) administration on the behavior of zebrafish from 4 distinct laboratory-bred populations using automated as well as observation based behavioral quantification methods.

Results:  Alcohol treatment resulted in significant dose-dependent behavioral changes but the dose–response trajectories differed among zebrafish populations.

Conclusions:  The results demonstrate for the first time a genetic component in alcohol responses in adult zebrafish and also show the feasibility of high throughput behavioral screening. We discuss the exploration and exploitation of the genetic differences found.