Tiny zebrafish brains give glimpse into audition

18 Aug 2017

A University of Queensland researcher has examined zebrafish brains in a bid to better understand how the human brain works.

School of Biomedical Sciences researcher Dr Gilles Vanwalleghem examined how sound was processed by the brain in early development, using six-day-old larval zebrafish.

His research identified cellular responses, brain regions and pathways through which the fish perceived and processed sounds.

“We found that many fundamental properties of the auditory system were established early in development and the brain’s pathway for sounds that zebrafish hear follow our brain fairly similarly,” he said.

Dr Vanwalleghem said once researchers understood sensory processing pathways and responses, they could then look at ways of treating disorders like autism, where sensory processing was disrupted.

“If we can look at zebrafish and understand how the fish hears, and how a fish with a disorder similar to autism responds to loud noises, we can then begin to look at applying drugs to treat the disorder.”

So why zebrafish?

Dr Vanwalleghem said zebrafish brains were similar to those of humans, and the larvae were completely transparent - meaning researchers could study the whole brain activity in real time at the level of neurons.

The study is published in The Journal of Comparative Neurology.


 Media: Sam Benger, s.benger@uq.edu.au +61 7 3365 5118