Zebrafish and Epilepsy: An Alternative Model for Studying Epilepsy

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disease that approximately 3.4 million people in the world suffer from. It is difficult to study epilepsy in human clinical trials due to the many different forms of disease.

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Why are Zebrafish Suitable for the Study of Epilepsy?

It is difficult to study epilepsy in human clinical trials due to the many different forms of disease.The Zebrafish brain structure is similar to the human brain, making it a suitable model to test for the alterations in the function of the brain that epilepsy causes. Seizures can be chemically induced to monitor how the Zebrafish behaves and reacts.

Common causes of epilepsy include:

  • Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Infections, including brain abscess, meningitis and encephalitis
  • Brain injury that occurs during or near birth
      Brain tumor
  • Abnormal blood vessels in the brain.


  • An EEG  (electroencephalogram): will be done to check the electrical activity in the brain. The test may show the area in the brain where the seizures start. The brain may appear normal after a seizure or between seizures.
  • Pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) assay: used to investigate the effect of caffeine, a known proconvulsant  and Anticonvulsant compound in zebrafish.
  •  Blood sugar
  • CBC (complete blood count)
  • Real time RtPCR 
  • Electrolyte balance
  • Histopathological examination of brain
  • Tests for infectious diseases.


To develop a model in the animal for brain disorder particularly epilepsy is very difficult because of its disease complexity and variation among the species. However, by using a number of different techniques and parameters in the zebrafish, we can incorporate the unique features of specific disorders to study the molecular and behavioral basis of this disease. The behavioral study, neurotransmitter analysis and gene expression studies in the aforementioned work above provide a first proof-of-principle model for screening basic drugs in epilepsy-related cognitive research using zebrafish as choice of animal.


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