Pharmacological analysis of zebrafish (Danio rerio) scototaxis

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Mar 30;35(2):624-31. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2011.01.006. Epub 2011 Jan 13.


The scototaxis test has been introduced recently to assess anxiety-like phenotypes in fish, including zebrafish. Parametric analyses suggest that scototaxis represents an approach-avoidance conflict, which hints at anxiety. In this model, white avoidance represents anxiety-like behavior, while the number of shuttling events represents activity. Acute or chronic fluoxetine, buspirone, benzodiazepines, ethanol, caffeine and dizocilpine were assessed using the light-dark box (scototaxis) test in zebrafish. Acute fluoxetine treatment did not alter white avoidance, but altered locomotion in the higher dose; chronic treatment (2 weeks), on the other hand, produced an anxiolytic effect with no locomotor outcomes. The benzodiazepines produced a hormetic (inverted U-shaped) dose-response profile, with intermediate doses producing anxiolysis and no effect at higher doses; clonazepam, a high-potency benzodiazepine agonist, produced a locomotor impairment at the highest dose. Buspirone produced an anxiolytic profile, without locomotor impairments. Moclobemide did not produce behavioral effects. Ethanol also produced a hormetic profile in white avoidance, with locomotor activation in 0.5% concentration. Caffeine produced an anxiogenic profile, without locomotor effects. These results suggest that the light-dark box is sensitive to anxiolytic and anxiogenic drugs in zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology*
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Dark Adaptation / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Zebrafish


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Caffeine
  • Ethanol