The effect of social distancing on a fish’s brain can be tedious research to get into. But a multi-lateral research team at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research has covered extensive research about the same. The Covid-era shifted the parameters of normal for everybody and tutored us about the social distancing. And also made us grapple to come to terms with the new normal. But, here is this research that studied the effect of social distancing on a fish’s brain. And how does a fish react to the changing environment?
The Zebrafish emerged as a superhero of the study of the effect of social distancing on fish’s brain. It senses the presence of other organisms or animals in its vicinity with the help of a hormone. The hormone is called the parathyroid or the pth2. Now prolonged social distancing and social isolation can be as disastrous for animals as it is for humans. Now the scientists divided this study into two phases and observed how neuronal genes in a Zebrafish reacted when raised alone or in an environment with its friends and kins. They used RNA sequencing to gauge the change in their expressions. And thus find the effect of social distancing on a fish’s brain too. A molecule found in the Zebrafish’s brain acts as a thermometer and thus proves helpful in the research.
Researchers reveal that there was a considerable change in the genes of fish when they were bred in isolation. The hormone was a parathyroid hormone 2 that not only traced the presence of other fish in the habitat but also their density. To scientists, this was an enthralling discovery to learn about the dual behavior of the hormone. Now, the levels of this hormone decreased considerably when the fish was isolated. And on the other hand, the levels rose when some of the fish’s companions were added to its habitat.
The researchers could read these levels like a thermometer and were amazed to note the readings. They verified their study and established the fact that an intense relation existed between the gene expression and the fish’s habitat or its social environment. And it was not just the pth2 or the parathyroid but the fish could actually “sense and feel” the physical movements of other fish in the tank. This is known as the mechano-sensation.
Mechanosensation to reflect the effect of social distancing on a fish’s brain
A sophisticated sensory organ called the “lateral line” helps fish detect objects or other companions in their proximity. And like humans experience touch and feel, similarly fish sense the swimming of other fish in the tank. The researchers also observed significant changes in the pth2 levels of the Zebrafish, concerning the movements of other fish in the water. They simulated the movement of Zebrafish larvae in the tank with the help of a motor. And to add to their surprise, the Zebrafish could notice these simulated movements. This too created a huge effect on the pth2 levels in the fish’s brain. Thus, the very palpable fact of the effect of social distancing on fish’s brain was established.
Also Read: Top 5 discoveries of the year 2020
The parathyroid i.e. Pth2 which is kind of a neuropeptide came out to be a surprising hormone in this experiment of social distancing. The presence or absence of other mates in the tank cast a huge effect on the fish’s psychology and its expressions.