Effect of Social Isolation on Anxiety-Related Behaviors, Cortisol, and Monoamines in Adult Zebrafish

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Abstract

Social isolation can be used to study behavioral, neural, and hormonal mechanisms that regulate interactions in social animals. Although isolation effects have been reported in social mammals and various fish species, systematic studies with isolated zebrafish are rare. Here, the authors examined behavior (social and nonsocial), physiological stress (whole-body cortisol levels), and neurochemicals (serotonin, dopamine, and their metabolites), following acute and chronic social isolation in adult zebrafish. To observe how isolated fish respond behaviorally to social stimuli, they exposed zebrafish to live conspecifics or animated images after acute (24 hr) or chronic (6 months) social isolation. The authors observed that isolation did not affect locomotor activity, but acute isolation had weak nonsignificant anxiogenic effects in adult zebrafish. They also found that all isolated fish responded to both live and animated social stimuli, and the stress hormone, cortisol was lower in chronically isolated fish. Finally, neurochemical analyses showed that serotonin levels increased when fish were exposed to social stimulus after acute isolation, but its metabolite 5HIAA decreased in response to social stimulus following both acute and chronic isolation. Levels of both dopamine and its metabolite DOPAC were also reduced in fish exposed to social stimulus after acute and chronic isolation. Overall, these results show that isolation in zebrafish is an effective tool to study fundamental mechanisms controlling social interaction at behavioral and physiological levels.

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