As one of my fellow classmates has already described in part, we have proposed to study the effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol on zebrafish. We have a good idea of how to execute experimentation on this topic. The meaning behind it however remains, as of yet, a bit vague. The idea was brought up during our last class discussion that we could experiment with the effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol on zebrafish development or adult mating and feeding patterns. We also thought of experimenting with the behavior of zebrafish on cocaine, or with the effects of alcohol and sleep deprivation on oursleves but neither of those ideas flew too high with PZ. Understandably so.

Although, while researching, I didn’t find too many articles on intoxicated and sleep deprived zebrafish, I did find a lot of articles on genes and regeneration. In one experiment, researchers surgically removed a small portion of zebrafish hearts and then monitored recovery. The zebrafish were not only able to regenerate the removed portion of their hearts within two months, the regenerated heart tissue functioned the same and looked histiologically the same as the heart tissue of zebrafish in the control group (Poss, Wilson, & Keating). Another group of researchers discussed the effects of cyclic adenosine monophosphate on neuron regeneration in zebrafish (Bhatt, Otto, Depoister, & Fetcho). This could obviously have significant implications on human neuron regeneration.

After thinking about my findings for a moment, I discovered the reason why articles about regeneration out number articles on the effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol. Areas of research like regeneration are much more useful, not as well understood, and provide lots of room for scientific advancement. I’m not sure that I have the skill or tools required to surgically alter an organism the size of a minnow or track specific chemicals throughout the nervous system but I’ll definately be giving some thought to possibilities for regeneration experiments over the weekend. If anyone has any suggestions, I would be pleased to read them.


Kenneth D. Poss, Lindsay G. Wilson, Mark T. Keating. Heart Regeneration in Zebrafish. Science. 13 December 2002. Vol. 298. no. 5601, pp. 2188 – 2190

Dimple H. Bhatt, Stefanie J. Otto, Brett Depoister, Joseph R. Fetcho. Cyclic AMP-Induced Repair of Zebrafish Spinal Circuits. Science. 9 July 2004. Vol. 305. no. 5681, pp. 254 – 258


  1. #1 Shaun
    September 28, 2007

    One big question in regards to your proposed research: how do you tell when a zebrafish is sleeping? Do they have a regular diurnal rhythm behaviorally or biochemically?
    On another note, perhaps it’s just me but when I hear of zebrafish and alcohol combined I keep picturing cliche`d frat hazing and swallowing the fish with the acohol, a decidedly un-scientific approach.

  2. #2 H. Humbert
    September 28, 2007

    …we have proposed to study the effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol on zebrafish.

    I’m no scientist, but my layman’s guess would be that those things will be found to be bad. I know, I know, really going out on a limb on this one.

  3. #3 caynazzo
    September 28, 2007

    As PZ should know, fins clipped from adult zebrafish to make genomic DNA usually regenerate within a month. With MS222, this is an ethically sound procedure that doesn’t seem to cause much suffering and quantitative data can be easily gathered.

    Good luck,

  4. #4 Christian Burnham
    September 28, 2007

    Are you sure that college is not an experiment in sleep deprivation and alcohol on the students?

  5. #5 Christian Burnham
    September 28, 2007

    My guess: The Z-fish will start obsessing about Ron Paul.

  6. #6 Coturnix
    September 28, 2007

    How are you going to sleep-deprive fish? Search Google Scholar for work by Greg Cahill, Carla Green and/or Keith Barrett + zebrafish for some ideas on techniques for observing sleep-wake cycles in zebrafish.

  7. #7 Dumb Guy
    September 28, 2007


    Being your own subject for alcohol and sleep deprivation experiments is OK.

    For the regeneration studies…not so much.

  8. #8 Bob O'H
    September 28, 2007

    Christian – shhhh. If they realise, they’ll demand payment.


  9. #9 Spaulding
    September 28, 2007

    If you’re interested in regeneration, you might also read up on Ellen Heber-Katz, G. Masinde, X. Li, and others who have been working with MRL mice. Excellent heart tissue regeneration, among other things. Regenerative medicine is a promising field.

    Some other names of potential interest regarding mamalian regeneration that I’ve jotted down: Alan Russell, Stephen Badylak and Hans Georg-Simon.

    But re: zebrafish? I have no clue.

  10. #10 Brownian
    September 28, 2007

    If you need background information, I’d be happy to write a paper on the effects of alcohol and sleep deprivation on me.

    My guess is that you’ll observe your subject zebrafish putting their fins around each other and loudly proclaiming, “This fish, is THE FISH. No, shhh, I gotta say something. This fish here, no, shhh, listen! This fish, is THE FISH, and I’m not jus’ saying that, y’know wha’ I’m saying?”

  11. #11 kellbelle1020
    September 28, 2007

    Forgive my ignorance, but how does one feed a fish alcohol? Do you just spike the tank or something?

  12. #12 Owlmirror
    September 28, 2007

    As I recall from the protocol section of a paper on sleep deprivation in mice (which I think was the same one that was investigating the protein-folding differences that resulted from sleep dep), they simply got grad students to brush the mice with the hairs of a small paintbrush whenever the mice looked like they were dozing off.

    Poor mice… “Can’t sleep. Brush will get me.”
    And then they kill them and examine their brains.

    Regeneration sounds interesting. How well is it understood? Are the same proteins and gene networks involved as in embryonic development?

  13. #13 Barn Owl
    September 28, 2007

    Alex Schier’s lab at Harvard has also looked at sleep in zebrafish. Here’s a recent paper-

    Prober, DA et al. (2006) Hypocretin/orexin overexpression induces an insominia-like phenotype in zebrafish. J. Neurosci. 26, 13400-13410.

  14. #14 Dan
    September 28, 2007

    If you’re into regeneration, the obvious way to cross interests with sleep deprivation, alcohol and regeneration is to make four controls, one sleep deprived and drunk, one only sleep deprived, one only drunk, and one normal, then injure them in some regeneration-requiring way. If you want controls for THAT, you can re-split your four groups into “surgically injured” and “not injured”, which would give you eight total groups, which is probably too much if you want a statistically significant number in each group (unless you have a lot of them, I guess).

    Also, if you do manage to con cocaine off of PZ, take pictures.

  15. #15 sailor
    September 28, 2007

    Since you are thinking of young zebra fish, an interesting experiment would be to study the effects of stress (which could include sleep deprivation) on their growth rate. You mght need three groups – high stress, moderate stress and control. You could also try the same groups with regeneration. There is evidence that extreme stress leads to dwarfism with humans, and any continuous stress normally hampers growth of new tissue. But I doubt either of these things has ever been done with fish.

  16. #16 Mike O'Risal
    September 28, 2007

    As one of my fellow classmates has already described in part, we have proposed to study the effects of sleep deprivation and alcohol on zebrafish.

    PZ is making life too hard for you students. If you simply studied the effects of these things on graduate students, you’d have an experiment that ran itself. All you’d have to do is note the results and do statistical analysis.

    Of course, you might find it difficult to come up with a control group of well-rested, sober graduate students. There must be one out there somewhere…

  17. #17 k
    September 28, 2007

    Wow. I’d like to see a successful fish surgery. Fish are so delicate and die so easily. Plus, fish surgery would have to be underwater.
    Sorry, I know there’s more to the article than fish surgery but I’m sort of fixated on that alone, LOL

  18. #18 Monado
    September 28, 2007

    While doing a simple dissection of Amphioxus in Vertebrate Biology lab, I soon abandoned the scalpel for a sharp pin. But if you’re actually doing research, you might want to look into drawing some very tiny blades from glass.

  19. #19 Melanie
    September 28, 2007

    Mike O’Risal,

    No, there aren’t.

  20. #20 Kimpatsu
    September 28, 2007

    We already know what happens to physicists when they’re sleep deprived or intoxicated: they turn into biology students! 😀

  21. #21 Steve
    September 29, 2007

    I did “brain surgery” on butterflies years ago. We used fragments on glass from the em microscopy lab and glued them to thin wooden dowels. Super sharp and cheap.

  22. #22 Bovis
    September 29, 2007

    Great blog, keep it going !


  23. #23 Jim
    September 29, 2007

    I’m with K on this one. Surgery on a fish to remove part of it’s heart just blows my mind. Would anybody mind providing a small description of that procedure?

  24. #24 Mooser
    September 29, 2007

    I have a fantastic idea! Why not experiment with leaving those poor little zebra-fish, who have not, and could not possibly, hurt you, alone? I predict if you don’t feed them alcohol or slice off pieces of their little fish hearts off and change their water pretty regular, they will live long and happy lives. Try it.

  25. #25 Jimmy
    September 30, 2007

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  26. #26 Migen
    December 4, 2007


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