Providing a food reward reduces inhibitory avoidance learning in zebrafish

Remy Manuel, Jan Zethof, Gert Flik, Ruud van den Bos
Behavioural Processes 2015, 120: 69-72
As shown in male rats, prior history of subjects changes behavioural and stress-responses to challenges: a two-week history of exposure to rewards at fixed intervals led to slightly, but consistently, lower physiological stress-responses and anxiety-like behaviour. Here, we tested whether similar effects are present in zebrafish (Danio rerio). After two weeks of providing Artemia (brine shrimp; Artemia salina) as food reward or flake food (Tetramin) as control at fixed intervals, zebrafish were exposed to a fear-avoidance learning task using an inhibitory avoidance protocol. Half the number of fish received a 3V shock on day 1 and were tested and sacrificed on day 2; the other half received a second 3V shock on day 2 and were tested and sacrificed on day 3. The latter was done to assess whether effects are robust, as effects in rats have been shown to be modest. Zebrafish that were given Artemia showed less inhibitory avoidance after one shock, but not after two shocks, than zebrafish that were given flake-food. Reduced avoidance behaviour was associated with lower telencepahalic gene expression levels of cannabinoid receptor 1 (cnr1) and higher gene expression levels of corticotropin releasing factor (crf). These results suggest that providing rewards at fixed intervals alters fear avoidance behaviour, albeit modestly, in zebrafish. We discuss the data in the context of similar underlying brain structures in mammals and fish.

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