Optical mapping of neuronal activity during seizures in zebrafish

Sci Rep. 2017 Jun 8;7(1):3025. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03087-z.


Mapping neuronal activity during the onset and propagation of epileptic seizures can provide a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying this pathology and improve our approaches to the development of new drugs. Recently, zebrafish has become an important model for studying epilepsy both in basic research and in drug discovery. Here, we employed a transgenic line with pan-neuronal expression of the genetically-encoded calcium indicator GCaMP6s to measure neuronal activity in zebrafish larvae during seizures induced by pentylenetretrazole (PTZ). With this approach, we mapped neuronal activity in different areas of the larval brain, demonstrating the high sensitivity of this method to different levels of alteration, as induced by increasing PTZ concentrations, and the rescuing effect of an anti-epileptic drug. We also present simultaneous measurements of brain and locomotor activity, as well as a high-throughput assay, demonstrating that GCaMP measurements can complement behavioural assays for the detection of subclinical epileptic seizures, thus enabling future investigations on human hypomorphic mutations and more effective drug screening methods. Notably, the methodology described here can be easily applied to the study of many human neuropathologies modelled in zebrafish, allowing a simple and yet detailed investigation of brain activity alterations associated with the pathological phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Molecular Imaging / methods
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Optical Imaging* / methods
  • Pentylenetetrazole / adverse effects
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Seizures / metabolism*
  • Seizures / physiopathology*
  • Zebrafish


  • Biomarkers
  • Calcium
  • Pentylenetetrazole