Habituation of the C-start response in larval zebrafish exhibits several distinct phases and sensitivity to NMDA receptor blockade

PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29132. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029132. Epub 2011 Dec 28.


The zebrafish larva has been a valuable model system for genetic and molecular studies of development. More recently, biologists have begun to exploit the surprisingly rich behavioral repertoire of zebrafish larvae to investigate behavior. One prominent behavior exhibited by zebrafish early in development is a rapid escape reflex (the C-start). This reflex is mediated by a relatively simple neural circuit, and is therefore an attractive model behavior for neurobiological investigations of simple forms of learning and memory. Here, we describe two forms of short-lived habituation of the C-start in response to brief pulses of auditory stimuli. A rapid form, persisting for ≥1 min but <15 min, was induced by 120 pulses delivered at 0.5-2.0 Hz. A more extended form (termed "short-term habituation" here), which persisted for ≥25 min but <1 h, was induced by spaced training. The spaced training consisted of 10 blocks of auditory pulses delivered at 1 Hz (5 min interblock interval, 900 pulses per block). We found that these two temporally distinguishable forms of habituation are mediated by different cellular mechanisms. The short-term form depends on activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs), whereas the rapid form does not.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / physiology*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Zebrafish / growth & development*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate