Water quality testing using apple snails reared in a laboratory culture for biotesting. Changes in the seeking and defensive behavior of the molluscs are analyzed in a special dish. Photo by D.A. Zaitsev and O.V. Zaitseva.

Welcome to the section of the Animal models in neurobiology studies, developmental biology and biotechnology (biotesting and bioindication methods)!

In this section of the site, you will learn about model animals and the studies that use their nervous and sensory systems as research models to resolve a number of problems of modern-day neurobiology and developmental biology and develop new biotechnology methods such as biotesting and bioindication. Model animals are employed to address important neurobiological problems including molecular mechanisms of reception, structural and functional foundations of the integrative brain functions, cellular mechanisms of behavior, underlying processes involved in memory and learning and many others. The model animals are also used to study the routes and mechanisms that led to the formation of the evolutionary and ontogenetic biodiversity (molecular, cellular, inductive mechanisms, genetic systems of body-plan control, genetic and epigenetic control of morphogenesis) and the postnatal neurogenesis in the course of the normal CNS development and during injuries. The models are also utilized to analyze the impact of adverse environment factors on the development of the brain and sensory organs. The nervous systems of model animals also play a crucial role in practical applications. They are employed to study the action of new pharmacological drugs, to develop novel technologies based on mechanisms of brain healing, to determine the maximum permissible concentrations of toxins and other contaminants and to develop new efficient methods of biotesting and bioindication in which the model animals are used as unique high-sensitivity biosensors.

Among the vertebrates, the animals most widely used as models are rats, mice, dogs, cats, rabbits, frogs, several bird species (especially those belonging to the family Corvidae), and some species of fish; among the invertebrates, the most commonly used model animals are some species of annelids, flatworms, gastropods, crustaceans, and insects (cockroaches, dragonflies, locusts, crickets, flies, ants, etc.). The majority of research models are lab animals or can be kept or reared in laboratory for a prolonged period of time. This important requirement arises from the necessity to obtain constant genetically homogenous biological material for studies. The laboratory animals are also more resistant to stress caused by the experimental conditions and can be maintained under the same standard conditions and on the standard food, which can help produce more reliable and consistent study results.

The New Caledonian crow Corvus moneduloides makes a tool (“hook”) to dig the food from a crevice in a tree trunk. From: Hunt, Gray (2003).
Brain tissue of a fingerling of the salmon trout with DiI-labelled microglial cells (red) migrating into the afflicted area two days after brain injury. From: Pushchina et al. (2014).
Freshwater snail Pomacea sp., a test animal for the universal express method of water biotesting (“PRM”-TEST). Photo by D.A. Zaitsev and O.V. Zaitseva.
Egg mass of the freshwater aquarium snail Helisoma trivolvis (a ram’s horn snail) with developing embryos, a model object used in developmental biology for studying the effect of neurotransmitters and environmental factors on embryogenesis. Photo by E.E. Voronezhskaya.
Experimental installation for in vivo studies of the postnatal development of the fish nervous system under normal conditions and during injuries equipped with micromanipulation chambers (LCM 780 Meta multiphoton confocal laser microscope modified from Axiovert 200M). National Center for Marine Biology of the Far-Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Vladivostok). Photo by E.V. Pushchina and A.A. Varaksin.
The study of the effect of increased serotonin levels on the brain development in a model animal, the embryo of the aquarium fish Danio rerio. An increased concentration of serotonin blocks the differentiation of serotoninergic neurons (green) in the brain. Right: an embryo after treatment of blastomeres with serotonin. Left: control specimen without the serotonin treatment. Photo by E. Ivashkin.