The impact of stress on social behavior in adult zebrafish (Danio rerio)

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Stress has adverse effects on social behavior that is mediated by dopamine circuits in the midbrain. The purpose of this research is to examine the effect of chronic stress and dopamine signals on social behavior in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Chronic stress was induced chemically with low dosage of ethanol (0.25% for 5 days), and psychosocially with isolation (3–5 days) or overcrowding (5 days). Dopamine activity was decreased by 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) exposure. Social behavior was observed by introducing one treated zebrafish to a group of four control zebrafish and measuring the nearest neighbor distance (NND). Swimming ability was analyzed by measuring total swim distance and average velocity. Analysis of swim ability showed that treatment had no adverse effect upon locomotor functioning. However, stress and MPTP affected social behavior similarly. In all stress conditions, there was a significant increase in NND (7.4±3.9–9.1±4.4 cm). MPTP also caused an increase in NND (8.9±2.7 cm), but MPTP/isolation treatment did not amplify the effect (8.9±5.5 cm). One possible explanation is that chronic stress causes a change in dopamine activity and decreases social behavior, providing insight into the function of dopamine in social behavior.

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