Methamphetamine effects in zebrafish (Danio rerio) depend on behavioral endpoint, dose and test session duration

Susan Schenk, Julia A. Horsfield, Linda Dwoskin, Sheri L. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research using zebrafish (Danio rerio) has begun to provide novel information in many fields, including the behavioral pharmacology of drug use and misuse. There have been limited studies on the effects of methamphetamine in adult zebrafish and the parameters of exposure (dose, test session length) have not been well-documented. Behavior following drug exposure is generally measured during relatively short sessions (6–10 min is common) in a novel tank environment. Many procedural variables (isolation, netting, novel tank) elicit anxiety-like behavior that is most apparent during the initial portion of a test session. This anxiety-like behavior might mask the initial effects of methamphetamine. During longer test sessions, these anxiety-like responses would be expected to habituate and drug effects should become more apparent. To test this idea, we measured several locomotor activity responses for 50-min following a range of methamphetamine doses (0.1–3.0 mg/L via immersion in methamphetamine solution). Methamphetamine failed to alter swimming velocity, distance travelled, or freezing time. In contrast, methamphetamine produced a dose-dependent decrease in time spent in the bottom of the tank, an increase in the number of visits to the top of the tank, and an increase in the number of transitions along the sides of the tank. The effects of methamphetamine were apparent 10–20 min following exposure and generally persisted throughout the session. These findings indicate that longer test sessions are required to measure methamphetamine-induced changes in behavior in zebrafish, as has been shown in other laboratory animals. The results also suggest that anxiety-like responses associated with various procedural aspects (netting, isolation, novel test apparatus) likely interfere with the ability to observe many behavioral effects of methamphetamine in zebrafish. Based on the current results, habituation to testing procedures to reduce anxiety-like behaviors is recommended in determining the effects of methamphetamine in zebrafish.

Original languageEnglish
Article number173777
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
StatePublished - Jul 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors


  • Behavior
  • Dose-effect
  • Methamphetamine
  • Time-course
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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