Aoki, R., Tsuboi, T., Okamoto, H. (2015) Y-maze avoidance: An automated and rapid associative learning paradigm in zebrafish. Neurosciences research. 91:69-72.
Recent genetic and neuroanatomical studies have demonstrated the suitability of adult zebrafish as a model animal in behavioral neuroscience. To evaluate their ability for adaptive learning, it is beneficial to develop a more efficient, more precise, and less laborious behavioral paradigm. By combining real-time video tracking and computer-controlled visual cue presentations on a liquid crystal display screen under the tank, we have developed a new method by which zebrafish can be trained to avoid one arm of a Y-shaped tank by presenting a specific color on the floor paired with a noxious electric shock. The whole procedure takes less than 2hours, and zebrafish learn to choose the correct arm of the tank at an efficiency rate of 89.0%, which is high compared with other associative learning paradigms. In addition, the acquired memory lasted for 24hours. We also developed a graphical user interface by which users can modify the paradigm assessment parameters such as shape of the tank and time schedules. Our assay system enables the rapid and reliable evaluation of cognitive ability in adult zebrafish, with high reproducibility, minimal experimenters' bias, and ease of customization.