The utility of the zebrafish model in conditioned place preference to assess the rewarding effects of drugs

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Substance abuse is a significant public health concern both domestically and worldwide. The persistent use of substances regardless of aversive consequences forces the user to give higher priority to the drug than to normal activities and obligations. The harmful and hazardous use of psychoactive substances can lead to a dependence syndrome. In this regard, the genetic and neurobiological underpinnings of reward-seeking behavior need to be fully understood in order to develop effective pharmacotherapies and other methods of treatment. Animal models are often implemented in preclinical screening for testing the efficacy of novel treatments. Several paradigms exist that model various facets of addiction including sensitization, tolerance, withdrawal, drug seeking, extinction, and relapse. Self-administration and, most notably, conditioned place preference (CPP) are relatively simple tests that serve as indicators of the aforementioned aspects of addiction by means of behavioral quantification. CPP is a commonly used technique to evaluate the motivational effects of compounds and experiences that have been associated with a positive or negative reward, which capitalizes on the basic principles of Pavlovian conditioning. During training, the unconditioned stimulus is consistently paired with a neutral set of environmental stimuli, which obtain, during conditioning, secondary motivational properties that elicit approach behavior in the absence of the unconditioned stimulus. For over 50 years, rodents have been the primary test subjects. However, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) is gaining favor as a valuable model organism in the fields of biology, genetics, and behavioral neuroscience. This paper presents a discussion on the merits, advantages, and limitations of the zebrafish model and its utility in relation to CPP.

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