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Publication Title

Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science


Anesthetics evoke a stress-response, upregulating heat shock genes. This neuroprotective response to proteotoxic stress represents preconditioning, a process by which neuronal tissue, previously exposed to anesthetics, is protected against future insult. It presumes a sub-lethal injury, affecting protein unfolding. Our hypothesis is: preconditioning evokes molecular events that result in downstream changes that offer a selective advantage in terms of neuronal function. We focused on the neurobehavioral aspects which we neurophenotyped. Larval zebrafish were exposed to trifluoroethanol (TFE), an anesthetic mimetic, and tested for both individual and group behavioral markers of neuronal function. In bright/dark tests, we observed that TFE-exposed larvae spent more time in the dark area (typically an adult-like response) than control larvae. The response of TFE larvae to noise startle was directly opposite to that of controls. TFE larvae swam towards the source of the startle (into the bright zone), whereas control larvae swam away from the source of the startle (into the dark), typical of fear-response. The larvae also exhibited several differences in social behaviors, including synchronized schooling and shoaling behaviors. The TFE-group showed a greater number of synchronized events versus controls. The TFE-group also exhibited more shoaling events compared with controls. While the long-term effects have yet to be determined, these results shed light on the mechanism of anesthetic preconditioning. These complex zebrafish behaviors normally develop with age and therefore represent, in the TFE-exposed group, a pattern of accelerated maturation of neuronal function, which is the neurophenotype attributed to preconditioning.



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Zebrafish, Anesthetics, Preconditioning, Neurophenotype, Trifluoroethanol