Using model fish to study the biological mechanisms of cooperative behaviour: A future for translational research concerning social anxiety disorders?

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Abstract

Human societies demand of its composing members the development of a wide array of social tools and strategies. A notable example is human outstanding ability to cooperate with others, in all its complex forms, depicting the reality of a highly demanding social framework in which humans need to be integrated as to attain physical and mental benefits. Considering the importance of social engagement, it's not entirely unexpected that most psychiatric disorders involve some disruption of normal social behaviour, ranging from an abnormal absence to a significant increase of social functioning. It is however surprising that knowledge on these social anxiety disorders still remains so limited. Here we review the literature focusing on the social and cooperative toolbox of 3 fish model species (cleaner fishes, guppies and zebrafish) which are amenable systems to test for social disorders. We build on current knowledge based on ethological information, arising from studies on cooperative behaviour in cleanerfishes and guppies, while profiting from the advantages of the intense use of zebrafish, to create novel paradigms aiming at the major socio-cognitive modules/dimensions in fish species. This focus may enable the discovery of putative conserved endpoints which are relevant for research into social disorders. We suggest that cross-species, cross-domain, functional and genetic approaches could provide a wider array of information on the neurobiological bases of social and cooperative behaviour, crucial to understanding the neural bases of social disorders and key to finding novel avenues towards treatment.

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