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Animals modulate their arousal state to ensure that their sensory responsiveness and locomotor activity match environmental demands. Neuropeptides can regulate arousal, but studies of their roles in vertebrates have been constrained by the vast array of neuropeptides and their pleiotropic effects. To overcome these limitations, we systematically dissected the neuropeptidergic modulation of arousal in larval zebrafish. We quantified spontaneous locomotor activity and responsiveness to sensory stimuli after genetically induced expression of seven evolutionarily conserved neuropeptides, including adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide 1b (adcyap1b), cocaine-related and amphetamine-related transcript (cart), cholecystokinin (cck), calcitonin gene-related peptide (cgrp), galanin, hypocretin, and nociceptin. Our study reveals that arousal behaviors are dissociable: neuropeptide expression uncoupled spontaneous activity from sensory responsiveness, and uncovered modality-specific effects upon sensory responsiveness. Principal components analysis and phenotypic clustering revealed both shared and divergent features of neuropeptidergic functions: hypocretin and cgrp stimulated spontaneous locomotor activity, whereas galanin and nociceptin attenuated these behaviors. In contrast, cart and adcyap1b enhanced sensory responsiveness yet had minimal impacts on spontaneous activity, and cck expression induced the opposite effects. Furthermore, hypocretin and nociceptin induced modality-specific differences in responsiveness to changes in illumination. Our study provides the first systematic and high-throughput analysis of neuropeptidergic modulation of arousal, demonstrates that arousal can be partitioned into independent behavioral components, and reveals novel and conserved functions of neuropeptides in regulating arousal.


Publisher's version available from The Journal of Neuroscience

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Journal of Neuroscience

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