Presented by Queen Mary, University of London

Alistair Brock
School of Biological And Chemical Science, Queen Mary University of London

Matteo Baiamonte
School of Biological And Chemical Science, Queen Mary University of London

Dr Matt Parker
School of Biological And Chemical Science, Queen Mary University of London

Dr Helen Moore
School of Biological And Chemical Science, Queen Mary University of London

Exhibit blog

Don’t we look smart!

Further reading

What shapes our behaviour and our susceptibility to develop psychological disease is difficult to assess. Environmental factors play a part in our character, but identifying the genes that influence behaviour is essential to understanding the causes and possible treatments of psychological disease.

See the scientists explain the science behind their exhibit in the video above, produced by students from Imperial College: Sander Loite, Tim Cockerill

How it works

This exhibit will demonstrate how Zebrafish can give insight to the genes associated with particular psychological diseases. Zebrafish share many genetic characteristics with mammals, which can help give insight to how genes govern behaviour and influence our likelihood to be affected by behavioural issues or addiction.

By introducing thousands of mutations into the Zebrafish genome, different fish families have been bred to exhibit specific behavioural traits. Families who carry genes that cause learning and impulse control difficulties can be identified. By screening for the different genetic patterns, scientists can identify the genetic markers linked to specific behavioural problems.

In fish we can control environmental factors and impose strict breeding regimes, making it is easier to identify genes with subtle effects on behaviour than is possible in human studies. In addition, as it is possible to generate families of fish that lack specific gene products, we can explore the cellular processes by which candidate genes influence vulnerability to psychiatric disease. 

The research into Zebrafish can help distinguish not only the genes involved in predicting an individual’s susceptibility to psychological disease, but also to their responses to different treatment therapies.

Lead Image: Profile shot of two zebrafish