Zebrafish Behavior Research Platform and Repository for Mental Health and Neuroscience

Period of Performance: 06/14/2017 - 05/31/2018


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Martineau &associates
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Principal Investigator


Neuroscience and mental health research increasingly rely on zebrafish, an animal model that ideally combines some of the best attributes of vertebrates and invertebrates. The zebrafish nervous system can be viewed as a much simplified blueprint of our human brain and its genome shares at least 80% of orthologous genes with ours. Its wide behavioral repertoire has allowed unprecedented neuroscience experiments and high throughput chemical compound screens which have yielded unique insights to the molecular and neuronal workings of our central nervous system and the development of new therapeutic strategies for mental illness. However, zebrafish?s small size and transparency have been a challenge for video based behavior analysis systems, resulting in paucity and rigidity of commercially available tools. Supporting only basic measures, these tools typically require segregating individual larva in restrictive cells of 96 well plates, limiting their expressible behavior repertoire. We have designed a novel imaging technology and developed a groundbreaking highly parallel, high throughput behavior observation system t hat eliminates the need to segregate fish and provides measures of much higher statistical power than competitive systems. Called Zebratrack, this easy to use system records and analyzes groups of zebrafish in Petri dish like containers in separate tank unit enclosures with dedicated cameras. The system efficiently and precisely extracts individual and population level behavior measures at high time resolution from hours to weeks long recordings, generates very low image data volumes, and stores the data in a web accessible repository. System operation, browsing of data and past recordings, and on demand data analysis are all performed via a web browser. We plan to productize this system as a platform available in various configurations assembled from modular tank units (Aim 1.1) and sharing a common software architecture (Aim 1.2) and data repository (Aim 2). We plan to commercialize the Zebratrack platform along an Instrument As A Service model and make the data repository available for search and data storage to our subscribers. With configurations starting at $5k, the technology will be accessible to any laboratory. Zebratrack will bring analytical tools of unparalleled statistical power to behavioral sciences and mental health research and expands the usability of zebrafish in experiments and longitudinal studies never before conceivable. Not only will neuroscientists be able to detect and measure subtle or transient phenotypic variations to investigate the complex gene interactions present in many psychiatric disorders, but they also will be able to leverage, through the repository, the cumulated values of the past experiments of the entire user community. Unbridling zebrafish behavioral power for genetic and compound screens and introducing unprecedented data sharing capabilities, Zebratrack will enable major strides in neuroscience and mental health research.