Oct 25, 2016 | By Tess

As we’ve seen, 3D printing has played a significant role in helping researchers to understand the movements of certain organic species, such as long extinct dinosaurs, and even the world’s first invertebrates. Now, as a research team from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering are demonstrating, it seems that the technology could even have a role to play for animal behavioral studies. The interdisciplinary team, led by professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Maurizio Porfiri, have discovered that zebrafish actually engage more with 3D printed robotic models of themselves than they do with other types of stimuli.

According to a recent press release, the researchers presented the tropical freshwater fish with different types of stimuli to see its various reactions. Specifically, the test involved placing a live zebrafish in the middle section of a three-part tank, and then placing the various stimuli one at a time in one of the other sections to see the fish’s response. Between a non-moving rod, a transparent replica, a static replica, a 2D moving replica, and a controllable 3D printed robotic replica, the real fish responded most to the latter.

The 3D printed fish replica, which was painted to bear visual similarities to the zebrafish (with faint blue stripes going across its body, and a yellow head and fins) was also robotically engineered to move like the zebrafish, to mimic its swimming patterns. As Porfiri explained, “The fish, when presented with the choice between a static robot and one that was moving in 3D and beating its tail, preferred to spend time with the latter. This clarifies the important role motion plays in influencing zebrafish behavior. These experiments also significantly refined the robotic platform that enables consistent, repeatable tests with our live subjects.”

Still, you may be wondering why this finding is so important. Well, as it turns out, zebrafish have become an incredibly useful species to study for normal or pathological behaviors. The zebrafish do not only have a genome which has been fully characterized, but their physiology and neuroanatomy are parallel to a human’s. This has made the aquatic species a prime option for studying and understanding certain mechanisms that play into such human disorders as addiction, anxiety, autism, and schizophrenia.

The research paper outlining the zebrafish’s response to the 3D printed biomimetic robot was recently published in Royal Society Open Science under the title “Zebrafish Response to a Robotic Replica in Three Dimensions.”

Led by Maurizio Porfiri, the interdisciplinary team also included researchers Tommaso Ruberto and Daniele Neri, as well as doctoral student Violet Mwaffo and undergraduate student Sukhgewanpreet Singh.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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