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Understanding movement & behaviour


Two separate studies in zebrafish have shed light on how the brain controls movement, providing valuable insights into behaviour and the treatment of brain diseases such as Parkinson’s.


A study at EARA member the Champalimaud Foundation, Portugal, together with the Technical University of Munich, Germany, recorded the brain activity of zebrafish in a region called the hindbrain, and found that distinct brain circuits control eye and tail movements and allow the fish to interact with its environment.


Claudia Feierstein, at Champalimaud, said: “The nice thing about this method is that it can be used by other scientists to better understand the link between neural activity and behaviour.”


The findings may also help to understand neurological conditions where the sensory to movement connection is disrupted.


Meanwhile, research led by the Paris Brain Institute, France, studied zebrafish embryos to build a map of how the brain drives forward movement and steering.


The team saw that neurons in a part of the brain called the mesencephalic locomotor region, were stimulated when the fish moved spontaneously and also in response to a visual stimulus – essentially giving them ‘steering instructions.’


This made it possible to map the brain circuits involved in initiating these movements, and paves the way to better understanding of how forward movement is impaired in conditions like Parkinson’s disease.

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