Robot fish and the alcoholic brain

Fish aren't exactly the world's most intelligent of animals. Zebrafish, for example, don't really discriminate too much when it comes to who they hang out with. As it turns out, a robot shaped roughly like a fish and painted to look like a big fat lady-type member of their own species is as good a swimming buddy as any in their little brains.

Maurizio Porfiri, director of NYU-Poly's Dynamic Systems Lab, recently got to thinking about the simple-minded Zebrafish and their part-time robot buddy. He realized that the real fish, while interacting with the robotic fish, presented a clear, simple system of interaction, one which might eliminate a few factors when dealing with a mind whose chemistry had been altered by a bit of booze.

And so an experiment was born. Shoals of Zebrafish, previously shown to enjoy the company of the robofish, were given varying degrees of ethanol-laden tanks to swim about in. The inebriated fish were then studied to see what they might do when intoxicated, and the result was suprising, at least when compared with typical human drunken behavior: the fish that were given alcohol wandered about the tanks, seemingly not caring a lick for the alluring robo-lady-fish that they had previously wanted to be right up against. Talk about reverse beer goggles.

The real news, however is that the experiment did in fact eliminate a good few variables that usually exist when testing for effects of alcohol on behavior. Which means that other experiments can go forward with the same certainty. And next on the docket for Porfiri is the introduction of a robo-predator. The better to see how Zebrafish — and maybe the rest of us as well — deal with danger when intoxicated.

Via Alcohol Journal

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