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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 Jul 2020 - 24 Jul 2020

Animal Studies

2020 Jul 22

J Exp Biol


Pt 14

Acute and chronic stress prevents responses to pain in zebrafish: evidence for stress-induced analgesia.


Thomson JS, Deakin AG, Cossins AR, Spencer JW, Young IS, Sneddon LU
J Exp Biol. 2020 Jul 22; 223(Pt 14).
PMID: 32699156.


The state of an animal prior to the application of a noxious stimulus can have a profound effect on their nociceptive threshold and subsequent behaviour. In mammals, the presence of acute stress preceding a painful event can have an analgesic effect whereas the presence of chronic stress can result in hyperalgesia. While considerable research has been conducted on the ability of stress to modulate mammalian responses to pain, relatively little is known about fish. This is of particular concern given that zebrafish () are an extensively used model organism subject to a wide array of invasive procedures where the level of stress prior to experimentation could pose a major confounding factor. This study, therefore, investigated the impact of both acute and chronic stress on the behaviour of zebrafish subjected to a potentially painful laboratory procedure, the fin clip. In stress-free individuals, those subjected to the fin clip spent more time in the bottom of the tank, had reduced swimming speeds and less complex swimming trajectories; however, these behavioural changes were absent in fin-clipped fish that were first subject to either chronic or acute stress, suggesting the possibility of stress-induced analgesia (SIA). To test this, the opioid antagonist naloxone was administered to fish prior to the application of both the stress and fin-clip procedure. After naloxone, acutely stressed fin-clipped zebrafish exhibited the same behaviours as stress-free fin-clipped fish. This indicates the presence of SIA and the importance of opioid signalling in this mechanism. As stress reduced nociceptive responses in zebrafish, this demonstrates the potential for an endogenous analgesic system akin to the mammalian system. Future studies should delineate the neurobiological basis of stress-induced analgesia in fish.