Chronic unpredictable stress induces anxiety-like behaviors in young zebrafish
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Exposure to stress during early life affects subsequent behaviors and increases the vulnerability to adult pathologies, a phenomenon that has been well documented in humans and rodents. In this study, we introduce a chronic unpredictable stress protocol adapted to young zebrafish, which is an increasingly popular vertebrate model in neuroscience research. We exposed zebrafish to a series of intermittent and unpredictable mild stressors from day 10 to 17 post-fertilization. The stressed fish showed a reduced exploration of a novel environment one day post-stress and an increased responsiveness to dark-light transition two days post-stress, indicative of heightened anxiety-related behaviors. The stress-induced decrease in exploration lasted for at least three days and returned to control levels within one week. Moreover, stressed fish were on average 8% smaller than their control siblings two days post-stress and returned to control levels within one week. All together, our results demonstrate that young zebrafish exposed to chronic unpredictable stress develop growth and behavioral alterations akin to those observed in rodent models.