EESS talk on "Assessing the neurotoxic potential of environmental contaminants using the zebrafish model"


Event details

Date 30.11.2021 12:1513:15  
Speaker Dr Colette vom Berg, Assistant Professor Tenure Track, Group leader, Department of Environmental Toxicology, EAWAG
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English
The increasing occurrence of contaminants such as insecticides, personal care products or pharmaceuticals in our water system has become an environmental issue of global concern. Their toxic potential poses a threat not only to human health but also to aquatic organisms. In fact, fish populations decline while the reasons are not well understood and anthropogenic environmental pollution likely plays a significant role. Chemical interference with the nervous system potentially alters behavioral responses such as mating, predator avoidance or feeding, resulting in reduced survival chances of an animal. However, the assessment of the neurotoxicity of chemicals so far is limited to few compounds and target organisms. Hence, there is a great demand for the mechanistic understanding of the neurotoxic potential of these environmental pollutants and for the development of meaningful methods for the assessment of neurotoxicity. Understanding the mechanism underlying a chemically-induced change in behavior is essential for toxicology in order to better predict the risk a contaminant poses on the environment beyond an immediately lethal concentration as usually assessed in classical toxicology. Moreover, identifying molecular targets of contaminants might also result in finding potential indicators, which can be used to monitor the health of natural populations or for the development of in vitro assays.
We are investigating molecular and neuronal mechanistic underpinnings by which environmental contaminants affect the fish nervous system and behavior. Using the zebrafish as a model, we are tackling how insecticides with different modes of action influence space use, locomotor behavior, neuromuscular development as well as the potential to recover from behavioral impairments. Moreover, we are assessing the impact of neuroactive pharmaceuticals on horizontal and vertical behavior and tackle molecular pathways underlying inter-individual differences. In this seminar, I will give an overview on our latest research results.

Short biography:
Colette vom Berg is a tenure-track group leader in Molecular Toxicology in the Department of Environmental Toxicology at Eawag since 2016. She studied biology at the University of Basel and received her PhD on visual signalling in zebrafish from the Institute of Molecular Life Science at the University of Zürich in 2010. She was a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg Germany, working on the processing of environmental stressors in the zebrafish brain. At Eawag, her research group is investigating neuroactive substances and their molecular mechanisms of action using behavioral, imaging and molecular approaches in the zebrafish.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free
  • This event is internal


  • EESS - IIE



Environmental contaminants neurotoxicity molecular mechanism behavior zebrafish