Beautiful Science

Two zebrafish engage in a getting-to-know-you swimming pattern after being introduced to each other for the first time. A breakdown in social behaviour by either fish will alter how they relate to one another, resembling similar disruptions seen by p
PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF OREGON

Two zebrafish engage in a getting-to-know-you swimming pattern after being introduced to each other for the first time. A breakdown in social behaviour by either fish will alter how they relate to one another, resembling similar disruptions seen by people with some socialisation disorders. University of Oregon scientists have identified brain cells vital to how zebrafish socialise. When the neurons are disabled, their orientation to one another breaks down in ways similar to socialisation problems seen in humans with autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, said the university in a statement. The neurons, which have equivalent genes in mice and in humans, provide a new avenue for research on the basic biological underpinnings of social behaviour, said co-author Philip Washbourne, a professor of biology and member of the university's Institute of Neuroscience who has studied autism genes for almost two decades.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'Beautiful Science'. Print Edition | Subscribe