Automated Measurements of Sleep and Locomotor Activity in Mexican Cavefish. Academic Article uri icon


  • Across phyla, sleep is characterized by highly conserved behavioral characteristics that include elevated arousal threshold, rebound following sleep deprivation, and consolidated periods of behavioral immobility. The Mexican cavefish, Astyanax mexicanus (A. mexicanus), is a model for studying trait evolution in response to environmental perturbation. A. mexicanus exist as in eyed surface-dwelling forms and multiple blind cave-dwelling populations that have robust morphological and behavioral differences. Sleep loss has occurred in multiple, independently-evolved cavefish populations. This protocol describes a methodology for quantifying sleep and locomotor activity in A. mexicanus cave and surface fish. A cost-effective video monitoring system allows for behavioral imaging of individually-housed larval or adult fish for periods of a week or longer. The system can be applied to fish aged 4 days post fertilization through adulthood. The approach can also be adapted for measuring the effects of social interactions on sleep by recording multiple fish in a single arena. Following behavioral recordings, data is analyzed using automated tracking software and sleep analysis is processed using customized scripts that quantify multiple sleep variables including duration, bout length, and bout number. This system can be applied to measure sleep, circadian behavior, and locomotor activity in almost any fish species including zebrafish and sticklebacks.

published proceedings

  • J Vis Exp

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Jaggard, J. B., Lloyd, E., Lopatto, A., Duboue, E. R., & Keene, A. C.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Jaggard, James B||Lloyd, Evan||Lopatto, Arthur||Duboue, Erik R||Keene, Alex C

publication date

  • March 2019