social-buffering-zebrafish

Social buffering in zebrafish

Posted by Gonny Smit on Tue 25 Apr. 2017

Shared sorrow is half a sorrow, according to the old proverb. New research indicates that social support is not only important for us humans, but also for zebrafish!

Better recovery with social support

We cope better in a threatening or unpleasant situation if we are not alone, a phenomenon scientists call social buffering. We humans are not the only species that exhibit social buffering;  several animals demonstrate this adaptation, which of course has some evolutionary advantages. The presence of conspecifics makes a threatening situation less dangerous, and thus the behavioral response to this situation is downregulated. Sounds pretty logical, right?

Zebrafish feel supported

Zebrafish are no exception. Faustino et al. recently found that zebrafish showed less fear in a threatening situation when they were not alone.

In their behavioral paradigm, the researchers exposed fish to an alarm substance. Some fish were alone, while others were exposed to conspecific cues – meaning that they were swimming in shoal water (olfactory cue only), were in visual contact with their shoal in an adjacent tank (visual cue only), or both (olfactory + visual cues).

Caught on camera

With the use of two cameras, fish were video monitored from the top and from a side view. EthoVision XT was used to track the animals and extract xyz coordinates. From these tracks detailed analysis of freezing behavior and erratic movements was performed to assess fear behavior in the zebrafish. 









FREE TRIAL: Try EthoVision XT yourself!

Request a free trial and find out what EthoVision XT can do for your zebrafish research!

  • Track zebrafish adult, larvae or embryo
  • Suitable for tracking in any arena
  • Most cited video tracking system


To validate correct behavioral analysis, results were compared to human observation using The Observer XT.

Seeing is believing

The results indicate that there was social buffering: zebrafish that were exposed to the aversive stimulus dealt with it better when they were not alone, as evidenced by less freezing behavior. The visual cue – being able to see their shoal – showed to be more effective than the olfactory cue (shoal water); size of shoal did not influence behavior. 

Gaining more insight

Researchers also found that social buffering elicited a specific co-activation pattern in the brain, instead of specific activation of certain brain areas, similar to a pattern that is found in mammals.  

This study adds to the growing understanding of the evolution of social buffering in social animals and the underlying mechanisms. The authors also hint at further research with zebrafish larvae and optogenetic techniques to get more in-depth insight at the circuit level.

References

Faustino, A.I.; Tacão-Monteiro, A.; Oliveira, R.F. (2017). Mechanisms of social buffering of fear in zebrafish. Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep44329. 

Share this post
Topics
Relevant Blogs
zebrafish-neurodegenerative-diseases

Zebrafish help us to understand neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases

Teresa Capriello and colleagues use zebrafish to study the neuronal mechanisms of heavy metals in connection to neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases.
zebrafish-larvaes-response-to-water-motion

How to measure a zebrafish larva’s highly stereotyped response to water motion?

At the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany, Groneberg and colleagues researched one of the neural bases for behavior in Danio rerio.
zebrafish-behavioral-research

5 must-read articles on zebrafish behavioral research

I have been reading a lot about zebrafish research lately and I thought it would be nice to share some of my favorite articles with you.