The Utility of Zebrafish for Studies of the Comparative Biology of Motor Systems

J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 2007 Sep 15;308(5):550-62. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.21127.


Although zebrafish are best known as a model for studies of development, there is now a growing role for the model in studies of the functional organization of the nervous system, including studies of a variety of sensory systems, central processing, and motor output. The zebrafish has much to offer for such work because of the unique combination of genetics, optical methods, and physiology it allows. Here I illustrate, using three examples, the broad range of avenues along which zebrafish can inform us about motor systems. The examples include efforts to understand the functional organization and evolution of spinal interneurons, the role of mutants in informing us about motor dysfunction and human disease, and the ability to use the special features of zebrafish to explore strategies to restore function after injury. The most important aspects of these studies are evident only when they are placed in a comparative context, so they serve to highlight the power of zebrafish in studies of the comparative biology of motor control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Models, Animal*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Physiology, Comparative / methods*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Zebrafish / physiology*