Motor learning is essential to maintain accurate behavioral responses. We used a larval zebrafish model to study ocular motor learning behaviors. During a sustained period of optokinetic stimulation in 5-day-old wild-type zebrafish larvae the slow-phase eye velocity decreased over time. Then interestingly, a long-lasting and robust negative optokinetic afternystagmus (OKAN) was evoked upon light extinction. The slow-phase velocity, the quick-phase frequency, and the decay time constant of the negative OKAN were dependent on the stimulus duration and the adaptation to the preceding optokinetic stimulation. Based on these results, we propose a sensory adaptation process during continued optokinetic stimulation, which, when the stimulus is removed, leads to a negative OKAN as the result of a changed retinal slip velocity set point, and thus, a sensorimotor memory. The pronounced negative OKAN in larval zebrafish not only provides a practical solution to the hitherto unsolved problems of observing negative OKAN, but also, and most importantly, can be readily applied as a powerful model for studying sensorimotor learning and memory in vertebrates.
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