Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

David Echevarria

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Alex Flynt

Committee Member 2 Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Member 3

Donald Sacco

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Alen Hajnal

Committee Member 4 Department



Alcohol abuse is the third largest risk factor for disease world, responsible for an estimated 3.3 million deaths each year. The concomitant ingestion of alcohol and caffeine is hypothesized to increase risk factors associated with alcohol use alone by reducing subjective effects of intoxication. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has recently garnered attention from researchers as an effective pre-clinical in-vivo animal model in behavioral pharmacology research, largely due to small size, low-cost and ease of drug delivery. A number of studies have reported the effects of alcohol and caffeine on zebrafish behavior at a variety of doses. However, the combined effects of alcohol and caffeine have rarely been reported. This study examined the effects of alcohol, caffeine, and alcohol and caffeine combined on anxiety-like behaviors and locomotor behaviors in the novel tank test. Caffeine combined with alcohol produced an antagonistic effect on locomotor behaviors and anxiety-like behaviors compared to alcohol alone. Furthermore, concomitant alcohol and caffeine exposure revealed increased c-Fos protein expression, a biomarker of neuronal activation, in the zebrafish brain region homologous to the mammalian amygdala, the medial pallium. In a separate experiment, zebrafish were housed in enriched or barren environments either isolated or in groups of three for two weeks prior to administration of alcohol and caffeine and novel tank testing to investigate the effect of housing environment on behavior. Overall, the effects of alcohol and caffeine on zebrafish behavior and the brain in this study are evolutionarily conserved, paralleling findings in rodents and humans and reinforcing the translational relevance of the zebrafish model in behavioral pharmacology research.

MA Thesis: