To study alcohol: More robots, fewer animals?

NYU (US) — Robotic fish could reduce the number of live animals needed to study the effects of alcohol on behavior and the brain, scientists say.

A team of researchers introduced a robot designed to replicate the color pattern and tail beat motion of a fertile female zebrafish into shoals of live zebrafish.

The species is highly social, and in prior experiments showed a consistently strong affinity for this robotic member. The goal was to test whether alcohol could affect this well-established preference.

Three groups of fish were treated with varying doses of ethanol in water—zero percent (control group), 0.25 percent, and 1 percent by volume. These doses represent acute administration and cause neither lasting effect nor harm to the fish.

The control group behaved as expected, showing a marked preference for the robotic member, assessed by the amount of time the fish spent in close proximity to the robot. The two ethanol-exposed groups deviated significantly from this pattern, spending more time in other regions of the tank.

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