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Scientists Discover Zebrafish Get Depressed and Stressed

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New research suggests fish are far more complex than previously thought. Sociable zebrafish/Shutterstock

Research into zebrafish suggests they can suffer depression, have sleeping disorders and even carry many of the genetic mutations thought to cause autism in humans.

In a paper published in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioural Reviews, scientists from University College London say the layout of the fish's brain is remarkably similar to humans. 

Jason Rihel, reader in behavioural genetics and one of the paper's authors, said that zebrafish brains have the same signalling molecules, the same basic regions and many of the same genes as humans.

The study also points out that zebrafish, like many other species, are instinctively social and curious. It also suggests that you can tell when they are upset - if you put one in an unfamiliar tank the distressed fish will be reluctant to explore their new home.

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Zebrafish larvae

Herwig Baier, a fish psychologist at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Munich, has discovered a zebrafish mutation which makes the fish predisposed to depression and chronically nervous.He has developed an anti-depressant compound which soothes the distressed fish and helps them sleep.

Zebrafish make ideal subjects for scientific study as the produce thousands of offspring and their larvae are transparent, allowing scientists to see changes taking place.



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