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Journal Article

Adaptive locomotor behavior in larval zebrafish

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Portugues, R., & Engert, F. (2011). Adaptive locomotor behavior in larval zebrafish. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 5: 72. doi:10.3389/fnsys.2011.00072.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-009E-4
In this study we report that larval zebrafish display adaptive locomotor output that can be driven by unexpected visual feedback. We develop a new assay that addresses visuomotor integration in restrained larval zebrafish. The assay involves a closed-loop environment in which the visual feedback a larva receives depends on its own motor output in a way that resembles freely swimming conditions. The experimenter can control the gain of this closed feedback loop, so that following a given motor output the larva experiences more or less visual feedback depending on whether the gain is high or low. We show that increases and decreases in this gain setting result in adaptive changes in behavior that lead to a generalized decrease or increase of motor output, respectively. Our behavioral analysis shows that both the duration and tail beat frequency of individual swim bouts can be modified, as well as the frequency with which bouts are elicited. These changes can be implemented rapidly, following an exposure to a new gain of just 175ms. In addition, modifications in some behavioral parameters accumulate over tens of seconds and effects last for at least 30s from trial to trial. These results suggest that larvae establish an internal representation of the visual feedback expected from a given motor output and that the behavioral modifications are driven by an error signal that arises from the discrepancy between this expectation and the actual visual feedback. The assay we develop presents a unique possibility for studying visuomotor integration using imaging techniques available in the larval zebrafish.