Nociception is the sensory mechanism used to detect cues that can harm an organism. The understanding of the neural networks and molecular controls of the reception of pain remains an ongoing challenge for biologists. While we have made significant progress in identifying a number of molecules and pathways that are involved in transduction of noxious stimuli, from the skin through the sensory receptor cell and from this to the spinal cord on into the central nervous system, we still lack a clear understanding of the perceptual processes, the responses to pain and the regulation of pain perception. Mice and rat animal models have been extensively used for nociception studies. However, the study of pain and noiception in these organisms can be rather laborious, costly and time consuming. Conversely, the use of Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans may be affected by the large evolutionary distance between these animals and humans. We outline here the reasons why zebrafish presents a new and attractive model for studying pain reception and responses and the most interesting findings in the study of nociception that have been obtained using the zebrafish model.
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