Being social animals, zebrafish are an interesting model for studying psychiatric disorders that affect social behavior, such as schizophrenia and autism. Related symptoms are an important target in pharmaceutical and behavioral therapies. Typical studies focus on group size effect, coloration and patterning effects, gender, and fish size, or more specifically on the actual behavioral elements in pharmaceutical and environmental research
Shoaling is a straightforward expression of social behavior in zebrafish. It is assessed by measuring the distances between each fish continuously or at several points in time. Though this is seemingly easy, it can be a cumbersome task if done manually.
Alternatively, other studies focus on individual social behavior (ex. in a two or three-chambered set-up). Fish are presented with a range of social stimuli (real fish, video images or animations) and the behavior of the fish is recorded.
The study of zebrafish behavior can include a lot of parameters and assessing these is a lot easier with the right software. Video tracking collects anything from straight-forward inter-fish distances to detailed swim behaviors for you in an efficient and reliable manner.
EthoVision XT video tracking offers just that: it detects and tracks fish in a group from a live video feed or video file and measure inter-fish distances continuously in order to assess shoal density or the shoaling tendency of one individual. Typically used parameters include the average distance between fish, the distances between the nearest and farthest neighbor, and the duration of proximity. All these parameters are automatically calculated and visualized alongside your other data in EthoVision XT.
More specific behaviors such swim speed and swim bursts, zig zag motions, distance to social stimuli, path shape, etc., are also easily measured with EthoVision XT.
This software even controls other programs and hardware. You can set up a video screen next your tank, and include the start and stop of a video in your EthoVision XT protocol - for example you can program your video to start at a certain time point or trigger with the fish showing specific behaviors.
Dr. Christina Semeniuk, associate professor at the University of Windsor, is studying the behaviors of multiple fresh water fish species in the Great Lakes. EthoVision XT is helping her lab with reliability.