The learning capabilities of zebrafish have been well-characterized in research. Many paradigms used in rodent studies, such as those using mazes, have been successfully adapted to zebrafish studies. They have been proven useful to study the effects of genetic disposition, chemical alterations, substances of abuse (such as alcohol), and promising substances in the treatment of specific disorders.
However, keeping track of zebrafish behavior can be a challenge because of their fast and often erratic movement.
The T-maze, or variations such as the Y-maze and cross-maze, is well-validated for discriminative learning tasks. The fish learn to select a certain zone to swim to based on natural preference for the environment (color, water depth, enrichment) or certain stimuli. Taught to expect a certain reward, fish will normally learn this quite easily.
Latency to reach the ‘goal areas’ is an obvious parameter in learning studies, and can even be measured manually quite easily. The same is true for the amount of entries to or transitions between zones, and the relative amount of time spent in a certain zone. However, additional valuable parameters such as swimming velocity and path shape may not be measured as easily. All provide valuable information about the learning and memory capabilities of the fish and how these capabilities are influenced by genetics or drugs. Video tracking makes this an easy job, giving consistent and objective measurements for reliable data.