Thinking, Sleeping Fish


Before I get to sleeping fish I first have to share this remarkable video. Watch above. Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Genetics in Shizuoka Prefecture have captured real-time video of thoughts forming in the brain of a zebrafish as it stalks its prey. Read more in Scientific American.  Zebrafish have also captured the attention of sleep scientists. How do you know a zebrafish is asleep you ask? According to Yokogawa et al., it stops swimming (for at least six seconds), stays immobile at the bottom or on the surface, and becomes less sensitive to external stimuli, such as a mild electric shock.

We recently received a 75 gallon aquarium as a gift. So, I have a new hobby, fish-keeper.  I’ve become fascinated watching the behavior of our community fish. Each species has unique traits, and I see the personality of each individual fish emerging. Our fancy goldfish that my three-year-old son has affectionately named ‘Nemo’ (because he is orange), comes alive and greets us like a puppy wagging his tail when you walk in the room. He is always clearly ready to eat. Picasso the plecostomus hides behind the driftwood until the lights go out and his nocturnal day begins. On occasion he rewards us with a daytime lap around the tank to let us know he is still alive and breathing.  We have a couple black moors that are pretty fun, and a school of catfish that act like a bunch of caffeinated monkeys with boundless energy. I don’t think they sleep, ever…

Now that I’m an official fish-keeper, knowing the utility scientists have found in zebrafish as research subjects; I’m considering adding some to our fish community and designing a sleep study. My research question is; will an auditory sleep aid influence the circadian rhythms of zebrafish? But before the study can begin, I have to solve a very real challenge. How do I get zebrafish to keep headphones on? If you have any ideas, please let me know!

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