Development and implementation of a three-choice serial reaction time task for zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Matthew O. Parker, Mollie E. Millington, Fraser J. Combe, Caroline H. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Zebrafish are an established and widely utilized developmental genetic model system, but limitations in developed behavioral assays have meant that their potential as a model in behavioral neuroscience has yet to be fully realized. Here, we describe the development of a novel operant behavioral assay to examine a variety of aspects of stimulus control in zebrafish using a 3 choice serial reaction time task (3 CSRTT). Fish were briefly exposed to three spatially distinct, but perceptually identical stimuli, presented in a random order after a fixed-time inter-trial interval (ITI). Entries to the correct response aperture either during the stimulus presentation, or within a brief limited hold period following presentation, were reinforced with illumination of the magazine light and delivery of a small food reward. Following training, premature responding was probed with a long-ITI session three times; once at baseline, once following a saline injection and once following an injection of a low dose of amphetamine (AMPH; 0.025 mg/kg). We predicted that if premature responding was related to impulsivity (as in rodents) it would be reduced following the AMPH injection. Results confirmed that zebrafish could learn to perform a complex operant task similar to tasks developed for rodents which are used to probe sustained attention and impulsivity, but the results from the AMPH trials were inconclusive. This study provides the foundations for development and further validation of this species as a model for some aspects of human attentional and impulse control disorders, such as substance abuse disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-80
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
Early online date31 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012


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