Patterns of avoidance behaviours in the light/dark preference test in young juvenile zebrafish: a pharmacological study

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Behav Brain Res, Volume 222, Number 1, p.15-25 (2011)


1872-7549 (Electronic)01

DOI Name (links to online publication)



The light/dark preference test is commonly used to assess anxiety-like phenotypes and validate the pharmacological effects of neuroactive compounds. This test has been recently adapted for adult zebrafish but has not yet been characterized and pharmacologically validated for young juvenile zebrafish. In the present study, we provide a detailed description of the pattern of exploratory behaviours encountered in juvenile zebrafish when exposed to the light/dark preference test. We report that juveniles display strong dark-avoidance behaviours in this test. Specifically, juveniles spent significantly less time, displayed high latency to enter and moved significantly less in the dark compartment relative to the white compartment of the testing apparatus. The expression of these dark-avoidance behaviours was significantly attenuated and increased by commonly used anxiolytic (diazepam, buspirone, ethanol) and anxiogenic (caffeine but not FG-7142) drugs, respectively. We also show that the expression of dark-avoidance behaviours can be significantly reduced in a manner similar to what is achieved with anxiolytic drugs, simply by decreasing the contrast between the white and dark zones, which made the dark zone less dark. Taken together, these findings provide the first pharmacological validation of the light/dark preference test for juvenile zebrafish and ascertain the nature of dark-avoidance behaviours as anxiety-like behaviours in young juvenile zebrafish. This behavioural-based assay is also versatile and can accommodate drug screening of both anxiolytic and anxiogenic compounds while eventually amenable to automation and high-throughput capacity in a near future.