Lost fish find their way, thanks to their ‘an

Zebrafish virtual reality

Video: This video shows a virtual environment for zebrafish larvae. The fish moves through a 2D environment with simulated water flow.
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credit: Misha Ahrens

The zebra fish swims towards the intended target. But the strong current pushed it off course. Still, the tiny fish swam back to its original location, determined to finish the journey.

How do animals know where they are in the environment? And how does this determine their subsequent choices? Scientists at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus discovered that the hindbrain, an evolutionarily conserved “ancient” part located at the back of the brain, has been discovered. Help animals calculate their location and use that information to figure out where they need to go next.

The new research is being published in the journal. cell 22 Dec, It reveals new functions for parts of the “archaic brain,” a discovery that may apply to other vertebrates.

Whole brain imaging revealed new networks.

to find out how animals perceive their place in the environment Researchers led by En Yang, a postdoc in Ahrens Lab, put tiny translucent zebrafish nearly half a centimeter long in a virtual environment that simulated currents. When the tide suddenly changes The fish will be pushed out of the way. However, they were able to correct that move and go back to the starting point.

while the zebrafish is swimming in a virtual reality environment. The researchers used a whole-brain imaging technique developed at Janelia to measure what is going on in the fish’s brain. The technique allows scientists to search the entire brain to see which circuits are activated during course-correcting behaviors and unravel individual components involved.

The researchers expected to see activation in the frontal cortex. This is where the hippocampus is located, which contains a “cognitive map” of the animal’s environment. They saw activation in many parts of the medulla. Information about the animal’s position is transmitted from the newly identified circuit through a dorsal brain structure known as the lower olive to the motor circuits in the cerebellum that enable the fish to move. When these passages are blocked The fish was unable to return to its original position.

These findings suggest that parts of the brainstem remember their original location in zebrafish. and generate error signals based on its current and past positions. This information is then passed on to the cerebellum. allowing the fish to swim back to the starting point This research reveals a new function for the inferior olive and cerebellum. This is known to involve actions such as reaching and moving. But not this type of navigation.

“We found that the fish were trying to calculate the difference between their current position and their desired position. and use this difference to generate false signals,” said Yang, the first author of the new study. “The brain sends that error signal to its motor control center. so that the fish can fix it after being accidentally carried away by the current. Even if several seconds have passed.”

New multiregional hindbrain circuits

It is not clear whether these same networks are involved in similar behavior in other animals. But researchers hope that laboratories studying mammals will start looking in the hindbrain for similar circuits for navigation.

This hindbrain network can also be the basis for other navigational skills, such as when a fish swims to a specific cover. researchers say

“This is a very unknown circuit for this type of navigation. which we think may support higher-order hippocampal circuits for observation and landmark-based navigation,” said Misha Ahrens, senior group leader, Janelia.


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