Due to their renowned regenerative capacity, adult zebrafish are a premier vertebrate model to interrogate mechanisms of innate spinal cord regeneration. Following complete transection of their spinal cord, zebrafish extend glial and axonal bridges across severed tissue, regenerate neurons proximal to the lesion, and regain their swim capacities within 8 weeks of injury. Recovery of swim function is thus a central readout for functional spinal cord repair. Here, we describe a set of behavioral assays to quantify zebrafish motor capacity inside an enclosed swim tunnel. The goal of these methods is to provide quantifiable measurements of swim endurance and swim behavior in adult zebrafish. For swim endurance, zebrafish are subjected to a constantly increasing water current velocity until exhaustion, and time at exhaustion is reported. For swim behavior assessment, zebrafish are subjected to low current velocities and swim videos are captured with a dorsal view of the fish. Percent activity, burst frequency, and time spent against the water current provide quantifiable readouts of swim behavior. We quantified swim endurance and swim behavior in wild-type zebrafish before injury and after spinal cord transection. We found that zebrafish lose swim function after spinal cord transection and gradually regain that capacity between 2 and 6 weeks post-injury. The methods described in this study could be applied to neurobehavioral, musculoskeletal, skeletal muscle regeneration, and neural regeneration studies in adult zebrafish.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere63240
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number177
StatePublished - Nov 2021


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