Visual processing of the zebrafish optic tectum before and after optic nerve damage

  • McDowell A
  • Dixon L
  • Houchins J
 et al. 
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Although the zebrafish has become an important model in visual neuroscience, little has been done to examine the processing of its higher visual centers. The purpose of this work was twofold. The first purpose was to examine the physiology of the zebrafish retinotectal system and its relationship to retinal physiology. Spectral sensitivity functions were derived from visually evoked tectal responses and these functions were compared to the functions of electroretinogram (ERG) responses obtained using the same stimulus conditions. The second purpose was to examine the recovery of visual functioning of the tectum following optic nerve damage. The optic nerves of adult zebrafish were damaged (crushed), and tectal visual processing was assessed following damage. The results showed that the spectral sensitivity functions based on the On-responses of the tectum and ERG were qualitatively similar. The functions based on each response type received similar cone contributions including both nonopponent and opponent contributions. However, the spectral sensitivity functions based on the Off-responses of the tectum and ERG differed. The results also showed that the zebrafish visual system is capable of neural regeneration. By 90 days following an optic nerve crush, the spectral sensitivity function based on the tectal On-response was similar to functions obtained from normal zebrafish. Although the tectal Off-response did recover, the spectral sensitivity based on the Off-response was not the same as the function of normal zebrafish. These results support the notion that different levels of the visual system process information differently and that the zebrafish visual system, like those of other lower vertebrates, is capable of functional regeneration.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Animals
  • Color Perception/physiology
  • Electroretinography
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual/physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nerve Crush
  • Nerve Regeneration/*physiology
  • Optic Nerve/*physiology
  • Retina/*physiology
  • Superior Colliculi/*physiology
  • Visual Pathways/*physiology
  • Zebrafish/*physiology

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  • A L McDowell

  • L J Dixon

  • J D Houchins

  • J Bilotta

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