Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Shoal Keepers

Brain cells identified in zebrafish that have a role in how the fish respond to others nearby - implications for human social neuroscience

13 September 2018

Shoal Keepers

Fish socialise in a complex dance – a distinctive getting-to-know-you weave not unlike teenagers at a disco. These artificially-coloured zebrafish are mirroring each other’s movements in a study of social neuroscience – identifying areas of their brains important to early bonding. Disabling a specific group of brain cells in a zebrafish’s forebrain disrupts how it ‘orientates’ to nearby partner fish, or perhaps their whole social group or shoal. This affects nearby healthy fish, too, who are unable to mirror their new friend’s distracted behaviour and lose interest. Researchers believe similar cells found in mice and humans, or the genes inside them, could be faulty in conditions like autism, increasing the challenge of social situations. While still a long way from suggesting new treatments, this fishy model is a perfect platform for testing theories based on what we have in common.

Written by John Ankers

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