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Object recognition memory in zebrafish

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zebrafish, leopard danio, memory, novel object preference test, novel object recognition test, neophobia, nicotine

Abstract (summary)

The novel object recognition, or novel-object preference (NOP) test is employed to assess recognition memory in a variety of organisms. The subject is exposed to two identical objects, then after a delay, it is placed back in the original environment containing one of the original objects and a novel object. If the subject spends more time exploring one object, this can be interpreted as memory retention. To date, this test has not been fully explored in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Zebrafish possess recognition memory for simple 2- and 3-dimensional geometrical shapes, yet it is unknown if this translates to complex 3-dimensional objects. In this study we evaluated recognition memory in zebrafish using complex objects of different sizes. Contrary to rodents, zebrafish preferentially explored familiar over novel objects. Familiarity preference disappeared after delays of 5 mins. Leopard danios, another strain of D. rerio, also preferred the familiar object after a 1 min delay. Object preference could be re-established in zebra danios by administration of nicotine tartrate salt (50 mg/L) prior to stimuli presentation, suggesting a memory-enhancing effect of nicotine. Additionally, exploration biases were present only when the objects were of intermediate size (2 × 5 cm). Our results demonstrate zebra and leopard danios have recognition memory, and that low nicotine doses can improve this memory type in zebra danios. However, exploration biases, from which memory is inferred, depend on object size. These findings suggest zebrafish ecology might influence object preference, as zebrafish neophobia could reflect natural anti-predatory behaviour.

Publication Information

May, Z., Morrill, A., Holcombe, A., Johnston, T., Gallup, J., Fouad, K., Schalomon, M., & Hamilton, T. J. (2016). Object recognition memory in zebrafish. Behavioural Brain Research, 296 (pp. 199-210).


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