Dr Will Norton

Zebrafish Behavioural Neuroscience

Associate Professor

Adrian Building, Room 333

Tel - internal: 5078

Tel - external: +44 (0)116 252 5078

Fax: +44 (0)116 252 3330

Email: whjn1@le.ac.uk


  • Adaptation and diversity
  • Neuroscience futures
  • Developmental neurobiology
  • Subtropical ecology and physiology
  • Behavioural ecology
  • Research projects



Carreño Gutiérrez H, Colanesi S, Cooper B, Reichmann F, Young AMJ, Kelsh RN, Norton WHJ. (2019). Endothelin neurotransmitter signalling controls zebrafish social behaviour. Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 28;9(1):3040.

Dalla Vecchia E, Di Donato V, Young AMJ, Del Bene F and Norton WHJ (2019). Reelin signalling controls the preference for social novelty in zebrafish. Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience.

Norton WHJ, Gutiérrez HC. (2019). The three-spined stickleback as a model for behavioural neuroscience. PLoS One. 2019 Mar 26;14(3):e0213320.

Norton WHJ, Manceau L, Reichmann F. (2019). The Visually Mediated Social Preference Test: A Novel Technique to Measure Social Behavior and Behavioral Disturbances in Zebrafish. Methods Mol Biol. 2019;2011:121-132.


Automatic quantification of juvenile zebrafish aggression. Carreño Gutiérrez H, Vacca I, Pons AI, Norton WHJ. J Neurosci Methods. 2018 Feb 15;296:23-31.

Angelo Bitetti*, Allison C. Mallory*, Claudia Carrieri, Elisabetta Golini, Hector Carreño Gutierrez, Emerald Perlas, Yuvia A. Pérez-Rico, Glauco P. Tocchini-Valentini, Anton J. Enright, William H. J. Norton, Silvia Mandillo, Dónal O'Carroll, Alena Shkumatava.  A conserved RNA regulates miRNA turnover and animal behavior through a near-perfect miRNA site. Nature Molecular and Structural Biology. In Press.

Pharmacological analysis of zebrafish lphn3.1 morphant larvae suggests that saturated dopaminergic signaling could underlie the ADHD-like locomotor hyperactivity. Lange M, Froc C, Grunwald H, Norton WHJ, Bally-Cuif L. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2018 Jun 8;84(Pt A):181-189. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2018.02.010. Epub 2018 Feb 26.


Nitric oxide interacts with monoamine oxidase to modulate aggression and anxiety-like behaviour. Carreño Gutiérrez H, O'Leary A, Freudenberg F, Fedele G, Wilkinson R, Markham E, van Eeden F, Reif A, Norton WHJ. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2017 Sep 23.

A Low-Cost Method of Skin Swabbing for the Collection of DNA Samples from Small Laboratory Fish. Breacker C, Barber I, Norton WH, McDearmid JR, Tilley CA. Zebrafish. 2017 Feb;14(1):35-41.


Aggression in non-human vertebrates: Genetic mechanisms and molecular pathways. Freudenberg F, Carreño Gutierrez H, Post AM, Reif A, Norton WH. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2016 Jul;171(5):603-40. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32358. Epub 2015 Aug 18. Review.


Jones, L.J., McCutcheon, J.E., Young, A.M., Norton, W. (Corresponding author) (2015). Neurochemical measurements in the zebrafish brain. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 9:246.

Stewart AM, Ullmann JF, Norton WH, Parker MO, Brennan CH, Gerlai R, Kalueff AV. (2015) Molecular psychiatry of zebrafish. Mol Psychiatry. 20 (1):2-17.

Jones, L.J., Norton, W.H. (Corresponding author) (2015) Using zebrafish to uncover the genetic and neural basis of aggression, a frequent comorbid symptom of psychiatric disorders. Behav. Brain Res. 276:171-80


Lange, M., Neuzeret, F., Fabreges, B., Froc, C., Bedu, S., Bally-Cuif, L., and Norton, W. (2013). Inter-individual and inter-strain variations in zebrafish locomotor ontogeny. PLoS One 8, e70172.

Norton, W. (Corresponding author) (2013). Towards developmental models of psychiatric disorders in zebrafish. Special issue “The world according to zebrafish: How neural circuits generate behaviour”. Front. Neural Circuits 7:79.

Tokarz J, Norton W, Möller G, Hrabé de Angelis M, Adamski J. (2013). Zebrafish 20β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 is important for glucocorticoid catabolism in stress response. PLoS One. 8 (1):e54851.

Lange, M., Neuzeret, F., Fabreges, B., Froc, C., Bedu, S., Bally-Cuif, L., and Norton, W.H. (2013) Inter-individual and inter-strain variations in zebrafish locomotor ontogeny PLoS One8(8):e70172.

Norton, W.H. (2013). Toward developmental models of psychiatric disorders in zebrafish Front. Neural Circuits7:79.

Cavodeassi, F., Bene, F.D., Fürthauer, M., Grabher, C., Herzog, W., Lehtonen, S., Linker, C., Mercader, N., Mikut, R., Norton, W., Strähle, U., Tiso, N., and Foulkes, N.S. (2013). Report of the Second European Zebrafish Principal Investigator Meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany, March 21-24, 2012 Zebrafish10(1):119-23.

Kalueff, A.V., Gebhardt, M., Stewart, A.M., Cachat, J.M., Brimmer, M., Chawla, J.S., Craddock, C., Kyzar, E.J., Roth, A., Landsman, S., Gaikwad, S., Robinson, K., Baatrup, E., Tierney, K., Shamchuk, A., Norton, W., Miller, N., Nicolson, T., Braubach, O., Gilman, C.P., Pittman, J., Rosemberg, D.B., Gerlai, R., Echevarria, D., Lamb, E., Neuhauss, S.C., Weng, W., and Bally-Cuif, L. (2013). Towards a comprehensive catalog of zebrafish behavior 1.0 and beyond Zebrafish10(1):70-86.

Tokarz, J., Norton, W., Möller, G., Hrabé de Angelis, M., and Adamski, J. (2013). Zebrafish 20beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 is important for glucocorticoid catabolism in stress response PLoS One8(1):e54851.


Research in my laboratory focuses on genes, neural circuits and human diseases that are connected to aggression using zebrafish as a model organism. Over the last two decades, zebrafish have become a premiere model to study neuroscience since they offer many of the key advantages of invertebrate models while sharing anatomic and genetic similarities with mammals, including humans.

Zebrafish have several attributes which also make them an excellent model to study the mechanistic basis of behaviour, including ease of maintenance, short generation time, genetic tractability and a full repertoire of mature behaviours. The large number of identified mutant lines, tools to manipulate genes (including CRISPR/Cas9 to knock-out genes), optogenetics and techniques to monitor neural activity (including calcium indicators and electrophysiology) make zebrafish an ideal model for behavioural neuroscience.

One area of our research centres on measuring the aggression levels in groups of adult zebrafish that harbour mutations in single genes. A key aspect of this work focuses upon measuring and comparing multiple behavioural changes in a single animal, giving insights into the pleiotropic action of the genes that control behaviour. Through comparison of the behavioural phenotype of different mutant families, we aim to uncover the general brain areas and genetic pathways that are linked to aggression in the vertebrate brain.

Furthermore, as part of the Aggressotype consortium, an EU-fund project to improve aggression subtyping, we are the in the process of screening to identify novel drugs to help treat patients that suffer from increased aggression.

A second aim of our research is to study the neurodevelopmental function of genes which are linked to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in human patients.

ADHD is a common psychiatric disorder that causes inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Although predominantly a childhood disease, ADHD can also be maintained into adulthood and lead to increases in aggression. However, despite the large number of disease-linked genes that have been identified in human ADHD patients, the changes in neural development that lead to symptoms of the disease are not well understood. In our work, we use larval zebrafish to uncover the function of some of these ADHD-related genes. We have already identified ADHD-linked alterations to zebrafish behaviour, including hyperactivity and motor impulsivity. By combining gene expression analyses with measurements of behaviour, we thus aim to understand how alterations to gene function can contribute to the symptoms of ADHD.


BBC Radio Leicester interview – 11 March 2014

I was interviewed with regard to my recent success in achieving a EU FP7 grant called Aggressotype.

The interview explains the work which will be carried out here in Biology as part of Aggressotype. This aims to identify novel drugs to reduce aggression levels, using larval zebrafish as a model organism. The rationale for carrying out this work in fish is discussed.

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