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How vision makes sure that little fish do not get carried away
Date:4/17/2014

with his department at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, he searches for and describes the neural networks in the brains of zebrafish larvae that control certain types of behaviour. This is no easy task, as, despite its minuscule size, the brain of a 5-mm-long fish larva consists of several hundred thousand neurons. One advantage, however, is that the brain of the fish larva is almost completely transparent. Neurons can thus be observed directly under the microscope without requiring any surgical dissection.

For their experiments, the scientists placed the fish larvae in circular containers, where they saw black-and-white stripes that moved around them. The animals demonstrated different reactions depending on the movement pattern presented. When the stripes moved from back to front for both eyes, the fish swam straight ahead or tried to turn around. However, when the stripes moved around the fish in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, the two eyes followed the perceived direction of rotation. The compensatory movements of the entire body (optomotor behaviour) or of the eyes alone (optokinetic behaviour) should make the motion signal on the retina as small as possible and keep the fish stable in place.

The neurobiologists wanted to identify the neurons while the brain was processing self-motion and initiating optomotor or optokinetic movements. "It was like looking for a needle in a haystack," explains Fumi Kubo, first author of the study. "This would have been completely inconceivable just a few years ago." For her study, Fumi Kubo, who worked in collaboration with Aristides Arrenberg and Wolfgang Driever from the Institute of Biology I at the University of Freiburg and scientists from the Freiburg Cluster of Excellence BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies, used a new scientific method: the imaging of the entire brain. Thanks to the latest fluorescent dyes and sophisticated genetic techniques, it has recently become pos
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Contact: Dr. Herwig Baier
hbaier@neuro.mpg.de
49-898-578-3200
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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