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Fish are used in a variety of experimental contexts often in high numbers. To maintain their welfare and ensure valid results during invasive procedures it is vital that we can detect subtle changes in behaviour that may allow us to intervene to provide pain-relief. Therefore, an automated method, the Fish Behaviour Index (FBI), was devised and used for testing the impact of laboratory procedures and efficacy of analgesic drugs in the model species, the zebrafish. Cameras with tracking software were used to visually track and quantify female zebrafish behaviour in real time after a number of laboratory procedures including fin clipping, PIT tagging, and nociceptor excitation via injection of acetic acid subcutaneously. The FBI was derived from activity and distance swum measured before and after these procedures compared with control and sham groups. Further, the efficacy of a range of drugs with analgesic properties to identify efficacy of these agents was explored. Lidocaine (5 mg/L), flunixin (8 mg/L) and morphine (48 mg/L) prevented the associated reduction in activity and distance swum after fin clipping. From an ethical perspective, the FBI represents a significant refinement in the use of zebrafish and could be adopted across a wide range of biological disciplines.


open access article