Rebecca Spizzirri originally shared this post:
This research is particularly important because it overcomes some of the long standing limitations on studying fish. A colleague of mine studied clownfish for her thesis, with the goal of investigating how hormones change in the brain as the fish change sexes (clownfish change from male to female when they become socially dominant in their environment). But this process involved pairing up the subjects in test tanks to see which would become dominant, which was ultimately stressful on the fish. In fact, not a single one survived the experiment. But if researchers can use virtual environments to get the same results, then not only is that in the best interest of animal welfare, but also it increases the range of possible environments or situations that the subjects can be exposed to, allowing researchers to draw more specific conclusions from these experiments.
"Dr. Ahrens and colleagues created a virtual environment for zebrafish, which allowed them to measure activity in the neurons as the fish 'moved'. In reality, the zebrafish was paralysed to allow the researchers to image its brain; the fish perceived to 'move' through the virtual environment by activating their motor neuron axons, the cells responsible for generating movement."
Researchers have developed a new technique which allows them to measure brain activity in large populations of nerve cells at the resolution of individual cells. The technique has been developed in ze…