Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Beneath the surface: What zebrafish can tell us about anxiety

Date:
July 14, 2014
Source:
Ithaca College
Summary:
One researcher has focused how genetics influence responses to stimuli that can trigger anxiety, and he’s using zebrafish -- a tropical member of the minnow family named for the black stripes on their bodies -- to do so. His research team examines how fish with tweaked genes respond to different triggers compared to unmodified fish. The work could someday lead to better, more nuanced medications for anxiety disorders.

Ian Woods, assistant professor of biochemistry at Ithaca College, uses zebrafish to research how genetics influence responses to stimuli that can trigger anxiety.
Credit: Ithaca College

The right tool for the job is important. A surgeon wouldn't use a chainsaw when a scalpel offers more control. But sometimes the best treatments available aren't precise. For example, anxiety medications available today are too blunt in how they target the brain, according to Ian Woods, assistant professor of biochemistry at Ithaca College.

Related Articles


"If you look at current treatments for anxiety disorders, the approach is a bit like taking a sledgehammer to a mosquito," he said. "The treatments may work for anxiety, but they can have a lot of side effects."

Woods researches how genetics influence responses to stimuli that can trigger anxiety, and he's using zebrafish -- a tropical member of the minnow family named for the black stripes on their bodies -- to do so. He and his team of student researchers examine how fish with tweaked genes respond to different triggers compared to unmodified fish. The work could someday lead to better, more nuanced medications for anxiety disorders.

Zebrafish make ideal test subjects for several reasons. The embryos are transparent and develop outside the mother's body, making it easy for Woods and his team to observe their growth under a microscope. They develop rapidly, are easy to care for and easy to breed in large quantities.

Specifically, Woods is looking at neuropeptides, which are the chemical messengers between brain cells. Different neuropeptides deliver different messages, which in turn produce different behaviors.

"Fish have the same neuropeptides as humans, and they mostly do the same things in the brain," Woods said. "We can never faithfully model a complex human behavior like anxiety, but when we're trying to figure out how the brain works, it's useful to see inside a fish."

Woods and his team isolate specific genes to disrupt, amplify, alter or replace, then analyze the movements of the modified fish with the aid of a computerized camera system. They examine responses to stimuli such as slight changes in water temperature, decreases in light intensity, or mild chemical irritants such as mustard oil.

"By observing the ensuing behavioral changes in the fish, we know how that replaced gene changed the message in the brain," Woods explained. For example, fish exhibiting anxiety-like behaviors might hug the walls of the tank, while the rest will swim toward the middle. It's not unlike social experiments in which the room temperature is raised gradually to see how human occupants will react.

"Genes typically don't cause the anxiety," Woods said. "But they can make organisms more susceptible to environmental triggers that might elicit what we'd call an anxious behavior."

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States; over 40 million Americans suffer from some type in their lifetimes. But medications can be overprescribed and abused. For example, emergency room visits related to the use of Xanax and related drugs doubled from 2005 to 2011, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ithaca College. The original article was written by Stephen Shoemaker. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ithaca College. "Beneath the surface: What zebrafish can tell us about anxiety." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714152320.htm>.
Ithaca College. (2014, July 14). Beneath the surface: What zebrafish can tell us about anxiety. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714152320.htm
Ithaca College. "Beneath the surface: What zebrafish can tell us about anxiety." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714152320.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins