Moderate early life stress improves adult zebrafish (Danio rerio ) working memory but does not affect social and anxiety‐like responses

Barbara D. Fontana, Alistair J. Gibbon, Madeleine Cleal, Ari Sudwarts, David Pritchett, Maria Elena Miletto Petrazzini, Caroline H. Brennan, Matthew O. Parker

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Early life stress (ELS) is defined as a short or chronic period of trauma, environmental or social deprivation, which can affect different neurochemical and behavioral patterns during adulthood. Zebrafish (Danio rerio ) have been widely used as a model system to understand human neurodevelopmental disorders and display translationally relevant behavioral and stress‐regulating systems. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of moderate ELS by exposing young animals (6‐weeks postfertilization), for 3 consecutive days, to three stressors, and analyzing the impact of this on adult zebrafish behavior (16‐week postfertilization). The ELS impact in adults was assessed through analysis of performance on tests of unconditioned memory (free movement pattern Y‐maze test), exploratory and anxiety‐related task (novel tank diving test), and social cohesion (shoaling test). Here, we show for the first time that moderate ELS increases the number of alternations in turn‐direction compared to repetitions in the unconditioned Y‐maze task, suggesting increased working memory, but has no effect on shoal cohesion, locomotor profile, or anxiety‐like behavior. Overall, our data suggest that moderate ELS may be linked to adaptive flexibility which contributes to build “resilience” in adult zebrafish by improving working memory performance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Early online date4 Jun 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 4 Jun 2020


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