Using a variant of the optomotor response as a visual defect detection assay in zebrafish


  • Matthew K. LeFauve George Washington University, American University
  • Cassie J. Rowe American University
  • Mikayla Crowley-Perry American University
  • Jenna L. Wiegand American University
  • Arthur G. Shapiro American University
  • Victoria P. Connaughton American University



behavioral neuroscience, optomotor response, spatial frequency, visuomotor, zebrafish


We describe a visual stimulus that can be used with both larval and adult zebrafish (Danio rerio). This protocol is a modification of a standard visual behavior analysis, the optomotor response (OMR). The OMR is often used to determine the spatial response or to detect directional visuomotor deficiencies. An OMR can be generated using a high contrast grated pattern, typically vertical bars. The spatial sensitivity is measured by detection and response to a change in grating bar width and is reported in cycles per degree (CPD). This test has been used extensively with zebrafish larvae and adults to identify visual- and/or motor-based mutations. Historically, when tested in adults, the grated pattern was presented from a vertical perspective, using a rotating cylinder around a holding tank, allowing the grating to be seen solely from the sides and front of the organism. In contrast, OMRs in zebrafish larvae are elicited using a stimulus projected below the fish. This difference in methodology means that two different experimental set-ups are required: one for adults and one for larvae. Our visual stimulus modifies the stimulation format so that a single OMR stimulus, suitable for use with both adults and larvae, is being presented underneath the fish. Analysis of visuomotor responses using this method does not require costly behavioral tracking software and, using a single behavioral paradigm, allows the observer to rapidly determine visual spatial response in both zebrafish larvae and adults.


Neuhauss SCF, Biehlmaier O, Seeliger MW, Das T, Kohler K, Harris WA, et al. Genetic Disorders of Vision Revealed by a Behavioral Screen of 400 Essential Loci in Zebrafish. J Neurosci. 1999 Oct 1;19(19):8603




How to Cite

LeFauve MK, Rowe CJ, Crowley-Perry M, Wiegand JL, Shapiro AG, Connaughton VP. Using a variant of the optomotor response as a visual defect detection assay in zebrafish. J Biol Methods [Internet]. 2021Feb.1 [cited 2021Apr.12];8(1):e144. Available from: