A New Escape Circuitry
News Jul 06, 2018 | Original Story from the Queensland Brain Institute
Zebrafish swimming towards visual threat - represented by checkerboard. Credit: The University of Queensland
How the zebrafish brain perceives and reacts to predators has been determined by researchers at The University of Queensland.
School of Biomedical Sciences Associate Professor Ethan Scott said the processing of visual threats by the brain represented a really interesting puzzle in neuroscience.
“Animals ranging from insects to humans will try to escape physically in response to a visual threat,” Dr Scott said.
“But we don’t know how the brain recognises that the stimulus is threatening or decides to escape.
“Because zebrafish larvae are small and transparent, we examined activity across the entire brain using microscopes while visual threats were presented.
“This gave us a window into the brain’s responses.”
Queensland Brain Institute postdoctoral fellow Dr Lucy Heap completed the study while undertaking a PhD at the Faculty of Medicine.
She said the study involved showing zebrafish a large threatening shape moving towards them.
“We found that visual information received from the eyes was broken down into components, such as shapes and brightness,” Dr Heap said.
“These components then needed to be processed separately by two different parts of the brain for the fish to respond appropriately.
“When a visual threat appeared, cells in a particular part of the brain, the thalamus, lit up.
“But if we interfered with activity in the thalamus, the fish failed to recognise the threat and did not swim away.
“These results help to complete our picture of how different sensory information travels through the brain, and how the brain represents the outside world.
“Because these functions are abnormal in patients with certain psychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia, this work sets the stage for deeper studies into the disorders’ basic mechanisms.”
This article has been republished from materials provided by The University of Queensland. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.
Heap, L., Vanwalleghem, G., Thompson, A., Favre-Bulle, I., & Scott, E. (2018). Luminance Changes Drive Directional Startle through a Thalamic Pathway. Neuron. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.06.013
Availability of Brain Tumor Surgery Dye Increases for NHS PatientsNews
A chemical dye that lights up brain tumours during surgery should be available to more NHS patients in England, according to the National Institute for Health and Care and Excellence (NICE).READ MORE
The Puzzle of Axonal Geometry May Have Been Solved, Could Influence Machine LearningNews
Why are axons, the spindly arms extending from neurons that transmit information from neuron to neuron in the brain, designed the way they are?READ MORE
Autism Spectrum Disorder Linked to Shape of Brain's CerebellumNews
Structural differences in the cerebellum may be linked to some aspects of autism spectrum disorder, according to a neuroimaging study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC).