Muto, A., Kawakami, K. (2016) Calcium Imaging of Neuronal Activity in Free-Swimming Larval Zebrafish. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.). 1451:333-41.
Visualization of neuronal activity during animal behavior is a critical step in understanding how the brain generates behavior. In the model vertebrate zebrafish, imaging of the brain has been done mostly by using immobilized fish. Here, we describe a novel method to image neuronal activity of the larval zebrafish brain during prey capture behavior. We expressed a genetically encoded fluorescent calcium indicator, GCaMP, in the optic tectum of the midbrain using the Gal4-UAS system. Tectal activity was then imaged in unrestrained larvae during prey perception. Since larval zebrafish swim only intermittently, detection of the neuronal activity is possible between swimming bouts. Our method makes functional brain imaging under natural behavioral conditions feasible and will greatly benefit the study of neuronal activities that evoke animal behaviors.