Oct 7, 2005

Visual prey capture in larval zebrafish is controlled by identified reticulospinal neurons downstream of the tectum

The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Ethan GahtanHerwig Baier


Many vertebrates are efficient hunters and recognize their prey by innate neural mechanisms. During prey capture, the internal representation of the prey's location must be constantly updated and made available to premotor neurons that convey the information to spinal motor circuits. We studied the neural substrate of this specialized visuomotor system using high-speed video recordings of larval zebrafish and laser ablations of candidate brain structures. Seven-day-old zebrafish oriented toward, chased, and consumed paramecia with high accuracy. Lesions of the retinotectal neuropil primarily abolished orienting movements toward the prey. Wild-type fish tested in darkness, as well as blind mutants, were impaired similarly to tectum-ablated animals, suggesting that prey capture is mainly visually mediated. To trace the pathway further, we examined the role of two pairs of identified reticulospinal neurons, MeLc and MeLr, located in the nucleus of the medial longitudinal fasciculus of the tegmentum. These two neurons extend dendrites into the ipsilateral tectum and project axons into the spinal cord. Ablating MeLc and MeLr bilaterally impaired prey capture but spared several other behaviors. Ablating different sets of reticulospin...Continue Reading

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