A robotics-based behavioral paradigm to measure anxiety-related responses in zebrafish

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 29;8(7):e69661. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069661. Print 2013.


Zebrafish are gaining momentum as a laboratory animal species for the study of anxiety-related disorders in translational research, whereby they serve a fundamental complement to laboratory rodents. Several anxiety-related behavioral paradigms, which rest upon the presentation of live predatorial stimuli, may yield inconsistent results due to fatigue, habituation, or idiosyncratic responses exhibited by the stimulus itself. To overcome these limitations, we designed and manufactured a fully controllable robot inspired by a natural aquatic predator (Indian leaf fish, Nandus nandus) of zebrafish. We report that this robot elicits aversive antipredatorial reactions in a preference test and that data obtained therein correlate with data observed in traditional anxiety- and fear-related tests (light/dark preference and shelter-seeking). Finally, ethanol administration (0.25; 0.50; 1.00%) exerts anxiolytic effects, thus supporting the view that robotic stimuli can be used in the analysis of anxiety-related behaviors in zebrafish.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Robotics*
  • Zebrafish


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Ethanol

Grant support

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant no. CMMI-0745753, the Honors Center of Italian Universities through a scholarship to Valentina Cianca, and the Mitsui USA Foundation through a fellowship to Tiziana Bartolini. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.