Zebrafish assessment of cognitive improvement and anxiolysis: filling the gap between in vitro and rodent models for drug development.
Zebrafish can provide a valuable animal model to screen potential cognitive enhancing and anxiolytic drugs. They are economical and can provide a relatively quick indication of possible functional efficacy. In as much as they have a complex nervous system and elaborate behavioral repertoire, zebrafish can provide a good intermediate model between in vitro receptor and cell-based assays and classic mammalian models for drug screening. In addition, the variety of molecular tools available in zebrafish makes them outstanding models for helping to determine the neuromolecular mechanisms for psychoactive drugs. However, to use zebrafish as a translational model we must have validated, sensitive and efficient behavioral tests. In a series of studies, our lab has developed tests of cognitive function and stress response, which are sensitive to drug effects in a similar manner as rodent models and humans for cognitive enhancement and alleviating stress response. In particular, the three-chamber task for learning and memory was shown to be sensitive to the cognitive enhancing effects of nicotine and has been useful in helping to determine neural mechanisms crucial for nicotinic-induced cognitive enhancement. The novel tank diving test was shown to be a valid and efficient test of stress response. It is sensitive to the reduction in stress-related behaviors due to the amxiolytic drugs diazepam and buspirone but not chlordiazepoxide. Nicotine also causes stress alleviating effects which can be interpreted as anxiolytic effects. Zebrafish models of behavioral pharmacology can be useful to efficiently screen test compounds for drug development and can be useful in helping to determine the mechanisms crucial for new therapeutic treatments of neurobehavioral impairments.
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