Breaking symmetry: The zebrafish as a model for understanding left-right asymmetry in the developing brain

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Abstract

How does left-right asymmetry develop in the brain and how does the resultant asymmetric circuitry impact on brain function and lateralized behaviors? By enabling scientists to address these questions at the levels of genes, neurons, circuitry and behavior, the zebrafish model system provides a route to resolve the complexity of brain lateralization. In this review, we present the progress made towards characterizing the nature of the gene networks and the sequence of morphogenetic events involved in the asymmetric development of zebrafish epithalamus. In an attempt to integrate the recent extensive knowledge into a working model and to identify the future challenges, we discuss how insights gained at a cellular/developmental level can be linked to the data obtained at a molecular/genetic level. Finally, we present some evolutionary thoughts and discuss how significant discoveries made in zebrafish should provide entry points to better understand the evolutionary origins of brain lateralization.

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