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Visual Behavior

Zebrafish larvae show stereotypic eye movements in response to large field movements in the surround, a behavior termed optokinetic response. Such eye movements can be triggered by placing the larva inside a rotating drum fitted with a moving grating or by projecting computer generated motion stimuli onto a screen viewed by the larva. This assay allowed us to identify a number of fish strains with heritable blindness, often in combination with defects in other organs. Such mutants are important models for similar diseases in humans.
We have build a fish “movie theater” where we measure eye movements in response to projected motion stimuli of various temporal, spatial and contrast properties. This allows us to precisely measure visual system performance in larvae of different stages and with various genetic and pharmacological manipulations. Such measurements form the basis of most of our projects as they give a quantifiable read-out of visual performance. Recently we have extended this technology to adult animals, including other fresh water fish of similar size. These behavioral studies are complemented by electropyhsiological methods such as electroretinography (ERG).
One of the mutants identified using this behavioral approach shows reversed eye movements, ultimately caused by the optic nerve connecting the eyes to the wrong brain hemisphere. These mutants also show interesting abnormalities in their swimming behavior. We are using this mutant to model abnormal human eye movements such as congenital nystagmus, which is much easier in zebrafish larvae due to the absence of attention and motivational components.

People involved:
Dr. Ying-Yu Huang
Kaspar Müller

Selected publications:
Mueller, K. P., and Neuhauss, S. C. (2010). Quantitative measurements of the optokinetic response in adult fish. J Neurosci Methods in press

Huang, Y. Y., Tschopp, M. , Neuhauss, S. C. (2009). Illusionary self-motion perception in zebrafish. PLoS ONE 4, e6550.

Huang, YY, Neuhauss, SCF (2008). The optokinetic response in zebrafish and its applications. Frontiers in Bioscience 13, 1899-1916

Huang, Y-Y, Rinner, O, Hedinger, P, Liu, S-C, Neuhauss, SCF (2006). Oculomotor instabilities in zebrafish mutant belladonna: A behavioral model for congenital nystagmus due to axon pathfinding defects. Journal of Neuroscience, 26: 9873-9880

Rinner, O, Rick, JM, Neuhauss, SCF (2005). Contrast Sensitivity, Spatial and Temporal Tuning of the Larval Zebrafish Optokinetic Response. Investigative Optical and Visual Sciences 46, 137-142