Seeing the whole picture: A comprehensive imaging approach to functional mapping of circuits in behaving zebrafish

Neuroscience. 2015 Jun 18;296:26-38. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.11.046. Epub 2014 Nov 27.


In recent years, the zebrafish has emerged as an appealing model system to tackle questions relating to the neural circuit basis of behavior. This can be attributed not just to the growing use of genetically tractable model organisms, but also in large part to the rapid advances in optical techniques for neuroscience, which are ideally suited for application to the small, transparent brain of the larval fish. Many characteristic features of vertebrate brains, from gross anatomy down to particular circuit motifs and cell-types, as well as conserved behaviors, can be found in zebrafish even just a few days post fertilization, and, at this early stage, the physical size of the brain makes it possible to analyze neural activity in a comprehensive fashion. In a recent study, we used a systematic and unbiased imaging method to record the pattern of activity dynamics throughout the whole brain of larval zebrafish during a simple visual behavior, the optokinetic response (OKR). This approach revealed the broadly distributed network of neurons that were active during the behavior and provided insights into the fine-scale functional architecture in the brain, inter-individual variability, and the spatial distribution of behaviorally relevant signals. Combined with mapping anatomical and functional connectivity, targeted electrophysiological recordings, and genetic labeling of specific populations, this comprehensive approach in zebrafish provides an unparalleled opportunity to study complete circuits in a behaving vertebrate animal.

Keywords: behavior; neural circuits; sensorimotor circuits; whole-brain imaging; zebrafish.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Models, Animal
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurosciences / methods
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zebrafish / physiology*