Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Pamela Hunt

Committee Members

Robin Looft-Wilson

Matthew Wawersik


Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects a significant portion of elderly individuals; however it is not an inevitable part of aging (Jahn, 2013). There are several cognitive deficits associated with AD, one of which is spatial memory, a type of declarative memory. In order to ultimately decrease the prevalence of AD, there must be a method of measuring different types of memory in individuals with the disease. One way to measure spatial memory in an animal model is via spontaneous alternation (SA), which is defined as an animal’s tendency to visit places it has visited least recently (Balcı et al., 2014). A specific behavior associated with AD is perseveration, which is closely associated with response alternation (RA), an animal’s tendency to repeat a certain behavior (Pekkala et al., 2008). In future AD research with potential pharmacological interventions, a high throughput animal model will be necessary to investigate if the drug successfully attenuates the cognitive deficits. There are currently several behavioral tasks that exist using non-human animal models to measure spatial memory, however all require some level of motivation, deprivation, or learning prior to the start of testing. This study aims to create a high throughput behavioral assay to investigate spatial memory in zebrafish, Danio rerio, which requires minimal handling and no pretraining. I tested 20 zebrafish individually in black and white Y-mazes with and without intra-maze cues and measured their % spontaneous alternation and % response alternation. The results showed that the zebrafish did not demonstrate spontaneous alternation in any of the maze conditions. Zebrafish did not demonstrate response alternation in the black maze, however they did in the white maze. Lighter colored environments have been shown to cause a stress response in fish (Lau et al., 2011). Therefore, I conducted a second experiment to determine whether an explicit environmental stressor (low water level exposure) would increase % response alternation. I tested 20 more zebrafish in the black maze with No Stress or Stress procedures prior to the same Y-maze task. The results showed that zebrafish demonstrated response alternation but there was no significant difference between the Stress and No Stress groups. The results of this study suggest that the zebrafish Y-maze behavioral assay is an efficient way of assessing perseverative responding, but perhaps not spatial memory, which can be used for future testing of AD drug development.

Available for download on Sunday, May 14, 2023

On-Campus Access Only