The Drosophila larva as a model for studying chemosensation and chemosensory learning: a review

Chem Senses. 2007 Jan;32(1):65-89. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjl030. Epub 2006 Oct 27.


Understanding the relationship between brain and behavior is the fundamental challenge in neuroscience. We focus on chemosensation and chemosensory learning in larval Drosophila and review what is known about its molecular and cellular bases. Detailed analyses suggest that the larval olfactory system, albeit much reduced in cell number, shares the basic architecture, both in terms of receptor gene expression and neuronal circuitry, of its adult counterpart as well as of mammals. With respect to the gustatory system, less is known in particular with respect to processing of gustatory information in the central nervous system, leaving generalizations premature. On the behavioral level, a learning paradigm for the association of odors with food reinforcement has been introduced. Capitalizing on the knowledge of the chemosensory pathways, we review the first steps to reveal the genetic and cellular bases of olfactory learning in larval Drosophila. We argue that the simplicity of the larval chemosensory system, combined with the experimental accessibility of Drosophila on the genetic, electrophysiological, cellular, and behavioral level, makes this system suitable for an integrated understanding of chemosensation and chemosensory learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Larva / physiology*
  • Learning*
  • Sensation*
  • Smell
  • Taste