The zebrafish is an endemic species to the Asian continent, but it has been in laboratories around the world for a few decades!
Due to the high genetic and biochemical similarity with human beings, the zebrafish has gained space on the benches and has enabled science to better understand embryonic development, drugs of abuse, toxicology, behavioral differences, genetics, neuroscience, and even some diseases.
In addition to its small size - taking up less space in laboratories - the Fish Lab's main animal model also has an advantage in its rapid embryonic development, helping to lower costs and accelerate the results of scientific research.
The damselfish is a small reef fish, measuring about 15 cm, and is very common on the Brazilian coast.
At the Fish Lab, we use one of the six species of damselfish from the Brazilian coast, Stegastes fuscus. They are territorial animals and aggressively defend their space.
This animal model has helped us learn more about rising ocean temperatures, aggressive behavior, and even learning and memory.
Erythroxylum pungens Tropane Alkaloids: GC-MS Analysis and the Bioactive Potential of 3-(2-methylbutyryloxy) tropan-6, 7-diol in Zebrafish (Danio rerio). Moreira, L. G. L., Ferreira, M. E. L., Reginaldo, F. P. S., Lourenço, E. M. G., Zuanazzi, J. A. S., Barbosa, E. G., ... & Giordani, R. B. Planta Medica, 2021
Learning and Memory
Learning is a process in which experiences are recorded and allow animals to respond to events differently as it provides behavioral flexibility. And this phenomenon has been of great interest from an immediate and functional point of view. Learning often promotes the formation of memories.
Memory is one of the most relevant cognitive processes, as it allows us to retain information from experience. However, many conditions and diseases disrupt learning and memory processes, causing huge damage to normal life. In our laboratory, we seek to develop new learning and memory protocols to test a range of elements that can improve or disrupt the development of these processes.
Effects of Drugs of Abuse on Behavior
Drugs are substances that modify, increase, inhibit or reinforce the physiological, psychological, or immunological functions of the body. Here, we investigate some legal drugs, such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and also other medical drugs, such as antidepressants and anxiolytics.
Alcohol is the most popular recreational drug and the costs and consequences of alcoholism pose an enormous burden to society. In moderate amounts, it has stimulant and anxiolytic effects that, in many cases, are associated with the development of addiction. In high doses, it causes loss of motor control, disorientation, and sedation, considered to be the drug's depressant effects.
Caffeine is a very popular psychoactive stimulant. Depending on the amount consumed, it causes physiological and behavioral changes, such as increased heart rate and alertness, as well as reduced fatigue and sleepiness. Caffeine is also involved in some symptoms of insomnia and anxiety.
Overall, we focus on determining the effects of these drugs on behavior, characterizing behavior under the acute and chronic effects of the drug, but in addition, the effects of drugs on learning and memory processes.
Sleep and Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is a widespread phenomenon characterized by altered consciousness and decreased sensory and voluntary activities. Studies suggest that prolonged sleep deprivation can induce a decline in attention and memory loss, which can lead to great impairment in learning.
The extent to which sleep deprivation can affect normal behavior and learning is one of our focuses of study. Sleeping seems to be such an important event that even aversive learning is impaired. In addition, we want to understand how the light cycle can interfere with normal sleep behavior and affect learning over a long period of time.
Each animal's response to environmental challenges varies according to its individual differences. These differences are called "animal personality". The most investigated personality trait is bold-and-shy, which has been shown to confer different advantages on those classified as shy or bold. the boldest males take advantage of mate choice due to females' preference for the trait, however, shy males seem to live longer and learn tasks involving environmental cues more quickly due to their greater attention and caution. Thus, natural selection and sexual selection are acting to maintain these personality traits in the animal population.
In our lab, we try to develop new tasks to classify fish according to their personality tests, not just bold-shy, but also sociability, risk-taking, exploration, and more. We then investigate the differences between males and females and the influence of behavioral traits on mate choice, nest building, aggression, and drug-seeking behavior.
Efeitos de poluentes no comportamento
O crescente uso de produtos químicos, associado ao estilo de vida moderno, tem levado ao aumento considerável da poluição química das águas. No entando, seus efeitos à saúde humana e impactos à biota aquática e meio ambiente ainda são pouco conhecidos.
Os poluentes conhecidos como “emergentes” são aqueles compostos novos ou previamente desconhecidos, ou ainda aqueles já conhecidos mas que não possuem seus efeitos como contaminante ambiental totalmente elucidados e são representados por uma grande variedade de compostos - incluindo fármacos, pesticidas, microplásticos e compostos presentes em produtos de higiene pessoal, como as benzofenonas, utilizadas como filtros UV.
Em nosso laboratório, estudamos os efeitos da exposição à diferentes poluentes no comportamento e capacidade cognitiva de zebrafish e do peixe donzela Stegastes fuscus, buscando entender os possíveis impactos a longo prazo dos poluentes na ecologia destas e outras espécies.