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San Fedele Superiore, Italy

Spinello C.,New York University | Macri S.,Section of Behavioural Neuroscience | Porfiri M.,New York University
Alcohol | Year: 2013

Preclinical animal models constitute a cornerstone against which the reward processes involved in drug addiction are often studied and dissected. While rodents have traditionally represented the species of choice, a growing body of literature indicates that zebrafish are emerging as a valuable model organism. Specifically, several studies demonstrate that the effects of ethanol at the level of emotional- and cognitive-related domains can be reliably investigated using zebrafish. The rapidly evolving nature of these efforts allows substantial room for the development of novel experimental paradigms suited to this freshwater species. The field of ethorobotics may prove particularly beneficial, due to its ability to convey fully controllable and easily reproducible experimental tools. In this study, we addressed the possibility of using a biologically inspired robot to investigate the emotionally related properties of ethanol in a preference task in zebrafish. To this aim, we evaluated wild-type zebrafish preference toward a robotic stimulus and addressed whether ethanol administration (0.25% and 1.00% ethanol/water concentration) may alter such preferences. In accordance with our previous studies, we observed that zebrafish exhibit a natural attraction toward the robot. Additionally, in agreement with our predictions, we showed that ethanol administration abolishes such preferences. This work is the first to demonstrate that robotic stimuli can be used in zebrafish to investigate the reward-related properties of alcohol. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

Marco E.M.,Complutense University of Madrid | Laviola G.,Section of Behavioural Neuroscience
Journal of Psychopharmacology | Year: 2012

Alterations in emotion regulation processes may form the basis of psychopathologies. The endocannabinoid (eCB) system, composed of endogenous ligands, the enzymatic machinery in charge of their metabolism and the specific metabotropic receptors, has emerged as a major neuromodulatory system critically involved in the control of emotional homeostasis and stress responsiveness. Data from animal models indicate that the eCB system plays a key role in brain development, and is probably involved in the control of emotional states from early developmental stages. The present review summarizes the latest information on the role of the eCB system in emotionality and anxiety-related disorders throughout the lifespan. Putative therapeutic strategies based on the pharmacological modulation of this system will be discussed. Given the fact that the pharmacological modulation of the eCB system has recently arisen as a promising strategy in the management of anxiety and mood disorders, the potential efficacy of this pharmacological approach (i.e. blockers of the catabolic pathway) will be discussed, as well as pharmacological alternatives such as modulators of cannabinoid receptors other than the classical CB1 receptor, or administration of other plant-derived compounds (e.g. cannabidiol). © British Association for Psychopharmacology 2012.

Valenti D.,National Research Council Italy | de Bari L.,National Research Council Italy | De Filippis B.,Section of Behavioural Neuroscience | Henrion-Caude A.,French Institute of Health and Medical Research | Vacca R.A.,National Research Council Italy
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews | Year: 2014

Clinical manifestations typical of mitochondrial diseases are often present in various genetic syndromes associated with intellectual disability, a condition leading to deficit in cognitive functions and adaptive behaviors. Until now, the causative mechanism leading to intellectual disability is unknown and the progression of the condition is poorly understood.We first report latest advances on genetic and environmental regulation of mitochondrial function and its role in brain development. Starting from the structure, function and regulation of the oxidative phosphorylation apparatus, we review how mitochondrial biogenesis and dynamics play a central role in neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. We then discuss how dysfunctional mitochondria and alterations in reactive oxygen species homeostasis are potentially involved in the pathogenesis of various neurodevelopmental syndromes with a special focus on Down, Rett, Fragile X syndromes and autism spectrum disorders. Finally, we review and suggest novel therapeutic approaches aimed at improving intellectual disability by activating mitochondrial function and reducing oxidative stress to amiliorate the quality of life in the subjects affected. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Ladu F.,New York University | Butail S.,New York University | Macri S.,Section of Behavioural Neuroscience | Porfiri M.,New York University
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research | Year: 2014

Background: The complex social behavior exhibited by zebra fish is often leveraged in preclinical studies to investigate whether and how psychoactive compounds modulate inter individual interactions. Due to theoretical and methodological constraints, previous studies on the effects of ethanol (EtOH) on social behavior focused on homogeneous groups in which all individuals were treated, thereby limiting the possibility of isolating all the intervening variables. Methods: To identify how a social group affects the individual response to EtOH, we quantified the behavior of a single treated individual (acute 0.00, 0.25, 0.50, and 1.00% concentration/volume) swimming together with a group of untreated subjects or alone. A novel in-house-developed automated tracking system was utilized to extract the trajectories of each subject and analyze individual and social behavior. Specifically, we characterized the locomotion of each individual, the cohesion and degree of alignment of the group of untreated subjects, and the interaction between treated and untreated subjects. Results: Individual response to high EtOH concentrations varied depending on the presence or absence of conspecifics. Specifically, EtOH-exposed subjects swam faster when group-tested than in isolation. Remarkably, the presence of the exposed individual substantially influenced the behavior of the untreated subjects. Thus, untreated subjects swam faster when the treated individual was exposed to intermediate EtOH concentrations, without varying their cohesion and degree of alignment. No change in the distance between treated and untreated subjects was found; however, the likelihood that the swimming direction of the treated individual anticipated the response of the group was influenced by EtOH concentration. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate the feasibility of exposing a single individual to EtOH and test it together with untreated subjects. This approach has the potential to unravel the social determinants of individual response to alcohol, by enabling us to dissociate EtOH exposure from sociality. © 2014 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Vitale A.,Section of Behavioural Neuroscience
American Journal of Primatology | Year: 2011

The aim of this article is to discuss some aspects of the relationship between feelings and primatological science, and how this relationship can influence this particular scientific practice. This point of view is based on the author's personal experience. A sentimental reason to study primatology in the first place will be discussed, and then the existence of a bond between the observer and the observed will be presented as a possible by-product of primatology. The following question is whether a sentimental attitude toward primates is detrimental for good science or is, alternatively, actually leading to better primatological science. As an example, the practice of naming individual monkeys is considered. It is argued that naming monkeys can help by characterizing individuality, and this is likely to improve planning of behavioural observations and welfare of captive individuals. The relationship between the researcher and study subject in biomedical studies is discussed in terms of hierarchy of moral status. Finally, primatology is not unique in the existence of bonds between the observer and the observed, at least from the point of view of the observer. However, primatology is unique because, more than in other cases, it gives greater opportunity for reasoning about different factors surrounding "doing science with animals." This is most probably owing to the phylogenetic closeness primatologists have with their study subjects. Among the different factors involved in making science using animals, the sentimental bond developing between the researcher and study animal can be very influential. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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