High-throughput behavioral screening method for detecting auditory response defects in zebrafish

J Neurosci Methods. 2002 Aug 30;118(2):177-87. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0270(02)00118-8.


We have developed an automated, high-throughput behavioral screening method for detecting hearing defects in zebrafish. Our assay monitors a rapid escape reflex in response to a loud sound. With this approach, 36 adult zebrafish, restrained in visually isolated compartments, can be simultaneously assessed for responsiveness to near-field 400 Hz sinusoidal tone bursts. Automated, objective determinations of responses are achieved with a computer program that obtains images at precise times relative to the acoustic stimulus. Images taken with a CCD video camera before and after stimulus presentation are subtracted to reveal a response to the sound. Up to 108 fish can be screened per hour. Over 6500 fish were tested to validate the reliability of the assay. We found that 1% of these animals displayed hearing deficits. The phenotypes of non-responders were further assessed with radiological analysis for defects in the gross morphology of the auditory system. Nearly all of those showed abnormalities in conductive elements of the auditory system: the swim bladder or Weberian ossicles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Air Sacs / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Mutation
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Zebrafish