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Fluoxetine in Zebrafish

Antidepressants and pharmaceuticals have been found in the environment as they are released in the effluent from wastewater treatment plants, which are not designed to remove such compounds from the water. This summer, Dr. Martin Connaughton and summer research student Kathy Thornton ‘13 are focusing on fluoxetine (Prozac) and its impact on the startle response in Zebrafish. Stimuli that are perceived as dangerous, in our case an acoustic/vibrational stimulus, can elicit a startle response from fish, aiding in the fish’s survival. Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which increases the concentration of serotonin in the blood, producing a “lighter” mood. It is hypothesized that under exposure to fluoxetine, the startle response will differ in swimming velocity and severity. Any decrease in responsiveness to a startle stimulus in response to fluoxetine would suggest that this compound, found in the environment, might decrease the likelihood of a fish surviving an attack by a predator.