Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Pamela S. Hunt

Committee Members

William J. Buchser

Brian C. Hulse


The study explored the effects of alcohol on short-term memory in zebrafish. Memory impairments are pervasive in several conditions resulting from long-term alcohol exposure, for example Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Most of the memory effects observed link to abnormal functioning of the hippocampus and frontal lobes. The effects of alcohol on memory are that it acts as a general central nervous system depressant, but it also affects some areas of the brain more than others. In our laboratory we use two variations of Pavlovian conditioning: Delay and Trace, to examine learning and memory with acute alcohol intoxication. The hypothesis was that zebrafish would respond to alcohol in a way similar to humans and other animal models. I used 60 adult zebrafish, half male and half female. The conditioned stimulus (CS) was a red square, while the unconditioned stimulus (US) consisted of zebrafish images that moved around the screen. In Delay conditioning the US immediately followed the offset of the CS. In Trace conditioning a 30-s interval separated CS offset from US onset. The highest concentration of ethanol, 1%, disrupted conditioned approach behavior in both training conditions, but the 0.5% concentration disrupted conditioned approach behavior only in the Trace procedure. This indicates that in the zebrafish, as in mammals, Trace conditioning is more sensitive to alcohol. Although it is unclear what effect of alcohol produces these learning and memory impairments, it is likely that alcohol disrupted activity in the hippocampus. This could occur via several routes—directly, through effects on hippocampal circuitry, or indirectly, by interfering with interactions between the hippocampus and other brain regions. Based on my findings, the zebrafish can be an important model to study both acute and chronic effects of alcohol on memory.

On-Campus Access Only