May 12 - There is something fishy going on at a lab at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. Researchers are dosing zebrafish with different levels of alcohol to see how their behaviour changes within a group environment. The research could shed light on how human behaviour changes in social settings where alcohol is a factor. Ben Gruber has more.
For one of these zebra fish....it's time for a cocktail. The chosen fish is part of an experiment looking into the links between alcohol and social behaviour. Researcher Maurizio Porfiri, is exposing the fish to gradually increasing levels of alcohol. At .25 percent concentration...it behaves normally, swimming with his group. But after the level is raised to .5 percent the now tipsy fish transforms into the life of the party. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MAURIZIO PORFIRI, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY POLYTECHNIC SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL AND AEROSPACE ENGINEERING AND DIRECTOR OF THE DYNAMICAL SYSTEMS LABORATORY, SAYING: "The drunk fish is actually taking the lead of the group. In a sense from its locomotion we can predict the locomotion of its peers. On the other hand, when the concentration of ethanol increases further, what we find is that this particular fish is instead taking the following position." Following - because at one percent concentration of ethanol, the now very drunk fish becomes lethargic, and can't - or won't - keep up, not unlike people in a similar state. The experiments also demonstrated that when removed from a social setting, the inebriated fish was lethargic no matter how much it had consumed. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MAURIZIO PORFIRI, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY POLYTECHNIC SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL AND AEROSPACE ENGINEERING AND DIRECTOR OF THE DYNAMICAL SYSTEMS LABORATORY, SAYING: "This I think can be useful for shedding light on people, on how people interact socially when they are under the effect of alcohol and also how alcohol can inhibit or change social response of people." It may also shed light on the relationship between alcohol and leadership, and the dangers of drinking like a fish.