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Quantitative cognition in Zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Graduate Student Seminar Series | Nawaf Majeed | Dec 19, 2022

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Quantitative cognition enables organisms to compare different quantities or magnitudes of available choices to make decisions in various ecologically relevant tasks like foraging, predator evasion, and social and sexual aggregation. The low resolution of human brain imaging has limited our understanding of human quantitative cognition, and thus animal model systems are required to unravel the neural circuitry behind quantitative cognition. Zebrafish, a model system in which whole brain imaging is possible with single neuron resolution, is an apt model to study quantitative discrimination tasks and the underlying neural pathways. The first project in this thesis proposal looked at the ability of zebrafish to learn to associate visual symbols with numerosity to predict the quantity of food reward they would receive in a 2 alternative forced choice task. We propose to take this work forward by looking at the intersection between quantitative cognition and object recognition, based on object motion and form characteristics. We propose to do this both in terms of social choices as well as in predation and in predator avoidance tasks. Establishing these quantitative cognition paradigms in zebrafish larvae pave the way for understanding the neural circuitry underlying quantitative and numerical abilities. 

About Speaker:

Nawaf is presently pursuing his PhD in the Neuroethology lab under the guidance of Dr. Bittu in the Department of Biology, Ashoka University. His primary research interests are fish behavior and cognition with an interest in decision making and collective behavior. He completed his integrated BS-MS degree from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Thiruvananthapuram, where he worked on context dependency of grouping behavior in zebrafish in Dr Ullasa Kodandaramaiah’s lab. He is interested in understanding quantitative cognition in zebrafish as a part of his PhD project where he is currently working on behavioral experiments looking at quantitative discrimination tasks in zebrafish in the aspects of social aggregation, predation and anti-predatory strategies  

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