Aluminum exposure impacts brain plasticity and behavior in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

C. Grassie, V. A. Braithwaite, J. Nilsson, T. O. Nilsen, H. C. Teien, S. O. Handeland, S. O. Stefansson, V. Tronci, M. Gorissen, G. Flik, L. O.E. Ebbesson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Aluminum (Al) toxicity occurs frequently in natural aquatic ecosystems as a result of acid deposition and natural weathering processes. Detrimental effects of Al toxicity on aquatic organisms are well known and can have consequences for survival. Fish exposed to Al in low pH waters will experience physiological and neuroendocrine changes that disrupt homeostasis and alter behavior. To investigate the effects of Al exposure on both the brain and behavior, Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) kept in water treated with Al (pH5.7, 0.37±0. 04μmol1-1 Al) for 2?weeks were compared with fish kept in under control conditions (pH6.7, >0.04μmol1-1 Al). Fish exposed to Al and acidic conditions had increased Al accumulation in the gills and decreased gill Na +, K+- ATPase activity, which impaired osmoregulatory capacity and caused physiological stress, indicated by elevated plasma cortisol and glucose levels. Here we show for the first time that exposure to Al in acidic conditions also impaired learning performance in a maze task. Al toxicity also reduced the expression of NeuroD1 transcript levels in the forebrain of exposed fish. As in mammals, these data show that exposure to chronic stress, such as acidified Al, can reduce neural plasticity during behavioral challenges in salmon, and may impair the ability to cope with new environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3148-3155
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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