Behaviour, plasticity and memory in larval zebrafish

Principal investigator: Owen RANDLETT — Team website  

Neurobiology | Zebrafish | Memory | Habituation| O-Bend | Nf1

 We are interested in how the brain changes with experience to alter behaviour – or how circuits in the brain learn and remember.

We work with larval zebrafish, which are a very small and transparent model vertebrate. Despite being less than a week old, zebrafish larvae can be trained to form long-term memories. We have developed paradigms to train larvae to ignore repeated stimuli. This simple form of learning is known as habituation, and offers a tractable paradigm to study the general phenomenon of learning and memory. Despite the apparent triviality of habituation (simply learning to ignore a given stimulus), how the brain actually accomplishes this selective filtration of specific stimuli is still largely mysterious. Indeed, we have shown that habituation is a complex phenomenon that involves multiple independent plasticity events that each tune individual components of behaviour. We hope to gain insights into this process at the molecular, cellular and circuit levels.

To study the mechanisms of habituation we exploit the advantages of the larval zebrafish, including:

  1. Optical transparency for imaging neuronal activity in intact and behaving animals. This allows us to measure how neurons and circuits adapt in real-time during habituation.
  2. The small size of the brain allows for whole-brain imaging on standard microscopes, allowing us to routinely quantify neural activity and anatomy in the whole-circuit context (see
  3. High-throughput quantitative behavioural analyses. This gives us precise measures of the outputs of plasticity at the behavioural level.
  4. Amenability to genetic and transgenic manipulation. This allows us to study the role of specific genes and pathways in plasticity processes.

Team members

  • Owen RANDLETTResearcher, INSERM, HDR – 04 78 77 70 16
  • Dominique BAASAssistant Professor, UCBL – 04 78 77 28 71
  • Abdel RAHMAN EL HASSANPhD Student, CNRS – 04 78 77 28 71
    – 04 78 77 28 71
  • Andrew HSIAOTechnician, INSERM – 04 78 77 28 71

Selected publications

  1. pi_tailtrack: A compact, inexpensive, and open-source behaviour-tracking system for head-restrained zebrafish
    Owen Randlett
    J Exp Biol. (2023) — Show abstract
  2. An optofluidic platform for interrogating chemosensory behavior and brainwide neural representation in larval zebrafish
    Sy SKH, Chan DCW, Chan RCH, Lyu J, Li Z, Wong KKY, Choi CHJ, Mok VCT, Lai HM, Randlett O, Hu Y, Ko H.
    Nature Communications (2023) — Show abstract
  3. Functional and pharmacological analyses of visual habituation learning in larval zebrafish
    miré LA, Haesemeyer M, Engert F, Granato M, Randlett O
    eLife (2023) — Show abstract
  4. A neuronal blueprint for directional mechanosensation in larval zebrafish
    Gema Valera Daniil, A. Markov, Kayvan Bijari, Owen Randlett, Amir Asgharsharghi, Jean-Pierre Baudoin, Giorgio A. Ascoli, Ruben Portugues, Hernán López-Schier
    Current biology (2021) — Show abstract
  5. Elevated preoptic brain activity in zebrafish glial glycine transporter mutants is linked to lethargy-like behaviors and delayed emergence from anesthesia
    Michael J Venincasa, Owen Randlett, Sureni H Sumathipala, Richard Bindernagel, Matthew J Stark, Qing Yan, Steven A Sloan, Elena Buglo, Qing Cheng Meng, Florian Engert, Stephan Züchner, Max B Kelz, Sheyum Syed, Julia E Dallman
    Scientific reports (2021) — Show abstract
  6. Acute regulation of habituation learning via posttranslational palmitoylation
    Jessica C Nelson, Eric Witze, Zhongming Ma, Francesca Ciocco, Abigaile Frerotte, Owen Randlett, J Kevin Foskett, Michael Granato
    Current biology (2020) — Show abstract
  7. Distributed Plasticity Drives Visual Habituation Learning in Larval Zebrafish
    Randlett O, Haesemeyer M, Forkin G, Shoenhard H, Schier AF, Engert F, Granato M.
    Current Biology (2019) — Show abstract
  8. Whole-brain activity mapping onto a zebrafish brain atlas.
    Randlett O, Wee CL, Naumann EA, Onyeka N, David S, Fitzgerald JE, Ruben P, Lacoste AMB, Clemens R, Florian E, Schier AF.
    Nature Methods (2015) — Show abstract
  9. Phenotypic Landscape of Schizophrenia-Associated Genes Defines Candidates and Their Shared Functions.
    Thyme SB, Pieper LM, Li EH, Pandey S, Wang Y, Morris NS, Sha C, Choi JW, Herrera KJ, Soucy ER, Zimmerman S, Randlett O, Greenwood J, McCarroll SA, Schier AF.
    Cell (2019) — Show abstract
  10. Zebrafish oxytocin neurons drive nocifensive behavior via brainstem premotor targets.
    Wee CL, Nikitchenko M, Wang WC, Luks-Morgan SJ, Song E, Gagnon JA, Randlett O, Bianco IH, Lacoste AMB, Glushenkova E, Barrios JP, Schier AF, Kunes S, Engert F, Douglass AD.
    Nature Neuroscience (2019) — Show abstract
  11. Brain-wide Organization of Neuronal Activity and Convergent Sensorimotor Transformations in Larval Zebrafish.
    Chen X, Mu Y, Hu Y, Kuan AT, Nikitchenko M, Randlett O, Chen AB, Gavornik JP, Sompolinsky H, Engert F, Ahrens MB.
    journal (2018) — Show abstract
  12. Expansion microscopy of zebrafish for neuroscience and developmental biology studies.
    Freifeld L, Odstrcil I, Förster D, Ramirez A, Gagnon JA, Randlett O, Costa EK, Asano S, Celiker OT, Gao R, Martin-Alarcon DA, Reginato P, Dick C, Chen L, Schoppik D, Engert F, Baier H, Boyden ES.
    PNAS (2017) — Show abstract
  13. Whole-brain serial-section electron microscopy in larval zebrafish.
    Hildebrand DGC, Cicconet M, Torres RM, Choi W, Quan TM, Moon J, Wetzel AW, Scott Champion A, Graham BJ, Randlett O, Plummer GS, Portugues R, Bianco IH, Saalfeld S, Baden AD, Lillaney K, Burns R, Vogelstein JT, Schier AF, Lee WA, Jeong WK, Lichtman JW, Engert F.
    Nature (2017) — Show abstract
  14. Brain-wide mapping of neural activity controlling zebrafish exploratory locomotion.
    Dunn TW, Mu Y, Narayan S, Randlett O, Naumann EA, Yang CT, Schier AF, Freeman J, Engert F, Ahrens MB.
    Elife (2016) — Show abstract
  15. The Oriented Emergence of Axons from Retinal Ganglion Cells Is Directed by Laminin Contact In Vivo.
    Randlett O, Lucia P, Zolessi FR, Harris WA.
    Neuron (2011) — Show abstract
  16. Cellular Requirements for Building a Retinal Neuropil.
    Randlett O*, MacDonald RB*, Takeshi Y, Almeida AD, Suzuki SC, Wong RO, Harris WA.
    Cell Reports (2013) — Show abstract

Funding & Support