Identification of a brain center whose activity discriminates a choice behavior in zebrafish

Billy Y.B. Lau, Priya Mathur, Georgianna G. Gould, Su Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


The ability to make choices and carry out appropriate actions is critical for individual survival and well-being. Choice behaviors, from hard-wired to experience-dependent, have been observed across the animal kingdom. Although differential engagement of sensory neuronal pathways is a known mechanism, neurobiological substrates in the brain that underlie choice making downstream of sensory perception are not well understood. Here, we report a behavioral paradigm in zebrafish in which a half-light/half-dark visual image evokes an innate choice behavior, light avoidance. Neuronal activity mapping using the immediate early gene c-fos reveals the engagement of distinct brain regions, including the medial zone of the dorsal telencephalic region (Dm) and the dorsal nucleus of the ventral telencephalic area (Vd), the teleost anatomical homologs of the mammalian amygdala and striatum, respectively. In animals that were subjected to the identical sensory stimulus but displayed little or no avoidance, strikingly, the Dm and Vd were not engaged, despite similar levels of activation in the brain nuclei involved in visual processing. Based on these findings and previous connectivity data, we propose a neural circuitry model in which the Dm serves as a brain center, the activity of which predicates this choice behavior in zebrafish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2581-2586
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 8 2011


  • Anxiety
  • Decision-making
  • Emotion
  • Fear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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