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Watching Fish Thoughts Form

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 4:14pm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scientists record the neuronal activity of a fish brain as the animal watches its prey.

Scientists in Japan have recorded the neuronal activity of a fish as it eyes its dinner, the first live recording of the brain processes behind a natural behavior. The study was published online in Current Biology on Thursday.

“Our work is the first to show brain activities in real time in an intact animal during that animal’s natural behavior,” said Koichi Kawakami of Japan’s National Institute of Genetics, according to a released statement. “We can make the invisible visible; that’s what is most important,” he said.

Just five days after fertilization, a zebrafish larva can go hunting for its food— in this case, a tasty paramecium (a single-celled organism). To see how visual cues map to the brain, the scientists genetically engineered a strain of zebrafish in which neurons in the animal’s visual-perception region of the brain glow when activated.  The team then watched the tiny predator watch its prey.

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