FEB 06, 2014 07:00 AM PST

Pain perception: the scientific evidence, assessment and alleviation of pain in fish

  • Director of Bioveterinary Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK
      Lynne is the Director of Bioveterinary Sciences at the University of Liverpool. She is originally from Scotland and conducted a Ph.D at Glasgow. Her studies explored the costs of fighting in crabs subject to hypoxia. Lynnes first post-doc investigated behaviour in the ghost fish at Manchester followed by a post-doc at the Roslin Institute. Here, she proved for the first time that rainbow trout perceived pain. Lynne then obtained a competitive five year NERC fellowship at Liverpool examining the genomics of dominance status and personality in fish. After a spell as a lecturer in marine biology in Liverpool, she was promoted to senior lecturer to develop programmes in animal welfare. Lynne is now leading the Bioveterinary Sciences field at Liverpool engaging with academics and industry. Lynnes research addresses mechanistic and functional questions in behavioural ecology and welfare using aquatic models. She adopts an interdisciplinary approach to investigate how intraspecific variation influence behavioural responses. Her research also explores applied questions in animal welfare that has led to significant changes in government and experimental regulations as well as receiving media attention. Lynne is an ethics chair for ASAB and a Link representative for UFAW. She is an ethics editor for Animal Behaviour and an associate editor for Applied Animal Behaviour Science . She has co-authored technical reports, guidelines and advised government bodies on questions regarding fish welfare and has been a grant panel member for BBSRC and NERC.


    The question of pain in fish has been subject to much debate and, since fish are a popular experimental model globally and commercially important in fisheries, recreational angling and aquaculture, many procedures that fish are subjected to cause tissue damage. These injuries would give rise to the sensation of pain in humans but whether fish have the capacity for pain is relatively under explored and is a contentious issue. This presentation shall review the recent empirical evidence that has shown that fish have the same neural apparatus to detect pain that mammals and humans do, that their brain is active during a potentially painful experience, that fish show negative changes in behaviour and physiology and that this is reduced by administering an analgesic. Experiments demonstrating the significance of pain to trout and zebrafish have been conducted and have shown that fish do not show appropriate fear and anti-predator responses during a painful stimulation. This suggests that they are dominated by the pain state confirming its importance to the fish. However, social context affects the aggressive behaviour of trout when noxiously stimulated. In a familiar group, dominant trout perform much less chasing of conspecifics yet this suspension in aggression is not seen when placed in an unfamiliar group of fish. The latest findings on zebrafish seeking analgesia will be presented to demonstrate that fish are willing to pay a cost to accessing pain relief. Therefore, responses to pain are more complex and not simple reflexes. Together, these results demonstrate that painful events are important for fish and we should seek to minimise and alleviate pain where possible. The latest research findings on identifying robust indicators to assess pain in fish shall be discussed alongside the current knowledge on the use of anaesthetics and analgesics.

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