Otoliths play an important role in Zebrafish in terms of hearing and sense of balance. Many studies have been conducted to understand its structure and function, however the encoding of its movement in the brain remains unknown. Here we developed a noninvasive system capable of manipulating the otolith using optical trapping while we image its behavioral response and brain activity. We’ll also present our tools for behavioral response detection and brain activity mapping.
Acceleration is sensed through movements of the otoliths in the inner ear. Because experimental manipulations involve movements, electrophysiology and fluorescence microscopy are difficult. As a result, the neural codes underlying acceleration sensation are poorly understood. We have developed a technique for optically trapping otoliths, allowing us to simulate acceleration in stationary larval zebrafish. By applying forces to the otoliths, we can elicit behavioral responses consistent with compensation for perceived acceleration. Since the animal is stationary, we can use calcium imaging in these animals’ brains to identify the functional circuits responsible for mediating responses to acceleration in natural settings.