Sound generation in zebrafish with Bio-Opto-Acoustics

Itia A. Favre-Bulle*, Michael A. Taylor, Emmanuel Marquez-Legorreta, Gilles Vanwalleghem, Rebecca E. Poulsen, Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop, Ethan K. Scott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Hearing is a crucial sense in underwater environments for communication, hunting, attracting mates, and detecting predators. However, the tools currently used to study hearing are limited, as they cannot controllably stimulate specific parts of the auditory system. To date, the contributions of hearing organs have been identified through lesion experiments that inactivate an organ, making it difficult to gauge the specific stimuli to which each organ is sensitive, or the ways in which inputs from multiple organs are combined during perception. Here, we introduce Bio-Opto-Acoustic (BOA) stimulation, using optical forces to generate localized vibrations in vivo, and demonstrate stimulation of the auditory system of zebrafish larvae with precise control. We use a rapidly oscillated optical trap to generate vibrations in individual otolith organs that are perceived as sound, while adjacent otoliths are either left unstimulated or similarly stimulated with a second optical laser trap. The resulting brain-wide neural activity is characterized using fluorescent calcium indicators, thus linking each otolith organ to its individual neuronal network in a way that would be impossible using traditional sound delivery methods. The results reveal integration and cooperation of the utricular and saccular otoliths, which were previously described as having separate biological functions, during hearing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6120
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


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