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Date:5/13/2014

New findings published by researchers at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering are helping to unravel the complex interplay between alcohol and social behavior and may lead to new therapies for mitigating the negative impacts of alcohol use and abuse. Their experiments, published in the current issue of Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, center not on patrons at a local happy hour, but on far simpler creatures: zebrafish.

A team led by Maurizio Porfiri, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the school's Dynamical Systems Laboratory, overturned the traditional experimental paradigm for alcohol-related studies, in which all subjects are exposed and their behavior and movements analyzed. Instead, the NYU School of Engineering researchers devised an original method that would allow for detailed tracking of a single, alcohol-exposed zebrafish amid a school of "sober" peers.

The research team comprised NYU School of Engineering Research Scholar Fabrizio Ladu and Postdoctoral Fellow Sachit Butail, along with Visiting Scientist Simone Macr, Ph.D., of the Istituto Superiore di Sanit in Rome, Italy.

They posited that an individual's response to alcohol would vary based on the presence or absence of unexposed peers. What they did not anticipate, however, was the remarkable effect the alcohol-exposed fish would have on unexposed shoalmates.

Porfiri and his colleagues designed an experimental procedure in which a single zebrafish was exposed to four concentrations of ethanol in water, ranging from zero to high. (This is called acute exposure and poses no harm to the fish.) Following exposure, the fish was released into a group of untreated zebrafish. To the researchers' knowledge, this is the first experiment to allow ethanol-exposed and untreated zebrafish to swim freely together. A custom tracking algorithm developed by the team allowed the researchers to follow
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Contact: Kathleen Hamilton
kathleen.hamilton@nyu.edu
718-260-3792
New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering
Source:Eurekalert  

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