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更新时间:2017-10-19 19:19:52 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Fish Depression Is Not a Joke

Can a fish be depressed? This question has been floating around my head ever since I spent a night in a hotel across from an excruciatingly sad-looking Siamese fighting fish. His name was Bruce Lee, according to a sign beneath his little bowl.

鱼会抑郁吗?自从我在酒店里与对面一条看起来极其悲伤的暹罗斗鱼共处一夜之后,这个问题就一直萦绕在我的脑海中。根据他的小碗底下的标签来看,他叫布鲁斯·李(Bruce Lee)。

There we were trying to enjoy a complimentary bloody mary on the last day of our honeymoon and there was Bruce Lee, totally still, his lower fin grazing the clear faux rocks on the bottom of his home. When he did finally move, just slightly, I got the sense that he would prefer to be dead.


The pleasant woman at the front desk assured me that he was well taken care of. Was I simply anthropomorphizing Bruce Lee, incorrectly assuming his lethargy was a sign of mental distress?


When I sought answers from scientists, I assumed that they would find the question preposterous. But they did not. Not at all.


It turns out that not only can our gilled friends become depressed, but some scientists consider fish to be a promising animal model for developing anti-depressants. New research, I would learn, has been radically shifting the way that scientists think about fish cognition, building a case that pet and owner are not nearly as different as many assume.


“The neurochemistry is so similar that it’s scary,” said Julian Pittman, a professor at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Troy University in Alabama, where he is working to develop new medications to treat depression, with the help of tiny zebrafish. We tend to think of them as simple organisms, “but there is a lot we don’t give fish credit for.”

“其中的神经化学太相像了,像得可怕。”阿拉巴马州特洛伊大学生物与环境科学系的教授朱利安·皮特曼(Julian Pittman)说。在学校里,他用小斑马鱼研发治疗抑郁症的新药物。我们通常会把它们当做简单的有机体,“但鱼类的价值远不止如此”。

Dr. Pittman likes working with fish, in part, because they are so obvious about their depression. He can reliably test the effectiveness of antidepressants with something called the “novel tank test.” A zebrafish gets dropped in a new tank. If after five minutes it is hanging out in the lower half, it’s depressed. If it’s swimming up top — its usual inclination when exploring a new environment — then it’s not.


The severity of the depression, he says, can be measured by quantity of time at the top vs. the bottom all of which seemed to confirm my suspicions about Bruce Lee.


All of this, of course, may sound fishy to any of the one in six people who has experienced clinical depression. How could a striped minnow relate to what you’ve been through? Is “depression” the right word?


While scientists have used animals, like mice, to study emotional problems for decades, the relevance of those models to human experience is sketchy at best.


There’s the obvious issue that “We cannot ask animals how they feel,” says Dr. Diego A. Pizzagalli, the director of the Center For Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research at Harvard Medical School. Though researchers may find parallels in serotonin and dopamine fluctuations, neither fish nor rat can “capture the entire spectrum of depression as we know it,” says Dr. Pizzagalli.

哈佛医学院抑郁、焦虑与压力研究中心主任迪亚哥·A·俾萨格里(Diego A. Pizzagalli)认为,一个显然的问题是“我们无法问动物它们有什么感觉。”尽管研究人员能找到对应的血清素和多巴胺波动,但鱼类或鼠类都无法“完整涵盖我们所知的抑郁的范围”,俾萨格里博士说。

There is a heated debate in the fish research community about whether anxious or depressed is a more appropriate term.


But what has convinced Dr. Pittman, and others, over the past ten years is watching the way the zebrafish lose interest in just about everything: food, toys, exploration — just like clinically depressed people.


“You can tell,” said Culum Brown, a behavioral biologist at Macquarie University in Sydney who has published more than 100 papers on fish cognition. “Depressed people are withdrawn. The same is true of fish.”

“你看得出来,”悉尼麦考瑞大学一位在鱼类认知方面发表过100多篇论文的行为生物学家库伦·布朗(Culum Brown)说,“抑郁的人是自闭的,鱼类也是。”

The trigger for most domestic fish depression is likely lack of stimulation, said Victoria Braithwaite, a professor of fisheries and biology at Penn State University, who studies fish intelligence and fish preferences.

宾夕法尼亚州立大学研究鱼类智力和偏好的渔业和生物学教授维多利亚·布赖斯韦特(Victoria Braithwaite)认为,缺少刺激可能是触发大多数家养鱼类抑郁的原因。

Study after study shows how fish are defying aquatic stereotypes: some fish use tools, others can recognize individual faces.


“One of the things we’re finding that fish are naturally curious and seek novel things out,” said Dr. Braithwaite. In other words, your goldfish is probably bored. To help ward off depression, she urges introducing new objects to the tank or switching up the location of items.


Dr. Brown agrees, pointing to an experiment he conducted, that showed that if you leave a fish in an enriched, physically complex environment — meaning lot of plants to nibble on and cages to swim through — it decreases stress and increases brain growth.


The problem with small tanks is not just the lack of space for exploration, said Dr. Brown, but also the water quality tends to be unstable and there may not be sufficient oxygen.


“A goldfish bowl for example is the worst possible situation,” he said.


If you own fish, you might want to consider where Dr. Brown keeps his: an extensively-landscaped six-foot tank. He recommends a “two foot tank with lots of plants and stuff” for your average betta.


The last time a guest posted Bruce Lee to Instagram he was looking good and lively. Perhaps that new green leaf in his bowl had provided the enrichment he craved.


But then, my heart sank. The internet produced photos of other Bruce Lees from the same hotel in several colors — red, blue and purplish. I wondered whether the monotony would eventually drive this replacement Bruce, to hover, immobile, near his transparent rocks.