Neurochemical factors underlying individual differences in locomotor activity and anxiety-like behavioral responses in zebrafish

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Variation among individuals may arise for several reasons, and may have diverse underlying mechanisms. Individual differences have been studied in a variety of species, but recently a new model organism has emerged in this field that offers both sophistication in phenotypical characterization and powerful mechanistic analysis. Recently, zebrafish, one of the favorites of geneticists, have been shown to exhibit consistent individual differences in baseline locomotor activity. In the current study, we further explore this finding and examine whether individual differences in locomotor activity correlate with anxiety-like behavioral measures and with levels of dopamine, serotonin and the metabolites of these neurotransmitters. In addition, we examine whether individual differences in locomotor activity are also associated with reactivity to the locomotor stimulant effects of and neurochemical responses to acute ethanol exposure (30 min long, 1% v/v ethanol bath application). Principal component analyses revealed a strong association among anxiety-like responses, locomotor activity, serotonin and dopamine levels. Furthermore, ethanol exposure was found to abolish the locomotion-dependent anxiety-like behavioral and serotonergic responses suggesting that this drug also engages a common underlying pathway. Overall, our results provide support for an important role of the serotonergic system in mediating individual differences in anxiety-like responses and locomotor activity in zebrafish and for a minor modulatory role of the dopaminergic system.

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