• Project Title: Poses and Programs for Behavior: Deconstructing and Classifying Action Patterns in Adult Zebrafish, Danio Rerio

  • BASIS Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Pittman

  • Internship Location: Georgetown University Center

  • Onsite Mentor: Dr. Jagmeet Kanwal

How do individual fins contribute to the overall motion of a fish? What role does genetics play in behavior? To answer these questions, a series of experiments must be conducted to develop a more thorough understanding of how particular genes (specifically the Shank3 mutation gene in Zebrafish) translate to behavior. Behavior is, by nature, qualitative. For this reason, one of the largest problems in behavior studies has been the quantification of behavior. Past projects have attempted to develop a methodology to resolve this error but have not achieved a high level of accuracy. This is mostly due in part because of the technology available at the time. Until recently, tracking softwares was inaccurate and only tracked a single point on the animal. As a result, researchers could not study their subjects in a multi-dimensional manner, instead being forced to evaluate complex behaviors from a single point. This is inherently fallacious as animal behavior unfolds as a sequence of multiple muscle contractions, propelling different body parts and possibly the whole animal through space. Thus, past methodologies are not powerful enough to measure complex behavior patterns. Consequently, the goals of this project will be to conduct and analyze these experiments in a multi-dimensional manner, refine an algorithm I developed last summer to optimize it for future use, and develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between genes and behavior.