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Molecular mechanisms underlying elemental and configural learning in zebrafish

Project description

Associative learning in zebrafish

Most species link specific experiences and stimuli with responses, a necessary learning process that allows them to adapt and survive. The EU-funded ViCoZe project aims to further study the two categories of this associative learning in zebrafish. The idea is to combine behavioural experiments with biochemical and neurological analyses as well as genetics to decipher the brain, molecular pathways and genes implicated in learning. ViCoZe will provide fundamental information on cognition that can be extrapolated in humans and also generate standardised zebrafish-based methods that can be used for future studies in the field.


The ability to learn and memorize information in a constantly changing environment is essential for survival for most species. Two forms of associative learning have been described, elemental and configural, but despite advances in our understanding of their mechanisms, we are still far from having a detailed view of the difference between these two strategies. For the first time, a systematic comparison of elemental and configural learning will be performed in adult zebrafish tested in an automated setup that I previously developed. By pairing the learning experiments with approaches combining pharmacology, neural imagery, biochemistry and genetics, I will aim at identifying brain areas, molecular pathways, especially those involving dopamine and noradrenaline, and genes involved in both forms of learning. Thanks to this project, I will gain invaluable experience from learning new approaches (particularly HPLC, staining and imaging, and RNA sequencing), and improve myself in project management, supervision, and scientific communication; skills required to develop my own independent line of research.
By exploring cognition in zebrafish, a model with a high genetic homology with human and that possess an evolutionarily conserved brain, the results from this project will have a major impact on the advancement of different research areas such as psychology, medicine and evolution of vertebrates. In addition, by giving open access on the automated tank system to the whole zebrafish field, the project will ensure a standardization of the methods in the future and provide a powerful tool for many other topics using zebrafish.
This project is a unique career opportunity, enhancing my understanding of cognition, and expanding my network to the medical and animal welfare community. This will help me to become a recognised expert in animal cognition in different research areas, and to develop a complete and dynamic research group in the future.


Net EU contribution
€ 191 852,16
405 30 Goeteborg

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Södra Sverige Västsverige Västra Götalands län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 191 852,16