The insect mushroom bodies are higher-order brain centers and critical for odor learning. We investigated experience dependent plasticity of their intrinsic neurons, the Kenyon cells (KCs). Using calcium imaging, we recorded KC responses and investigated non-associative plasticity by applying repeated odor stimuli. Associative plasticity was examined by performing appetitive odor learning experiments. Olfactory, gustatory and tactile antennal stimuli evoked phasic calcium transients in sparse ensembles of responding KCs. Repeated stimulation with an odor led to a decrease in KCs' response strength. The pairing of an odor (conditioned stimulus, CS) with a sucrose reward (unconditioned stimulus) induced a prolongation of KC responses. After conditioning, KC responses to a rewarded odor (CS+) recovered from repetition-induced decrease, while the responses to a non-rewarded odor (CS-) decreased further. The spatio-temporal pattern of activated KCs changed for both odors when compared with the response before conditioning but the change was stronger for the CS-. These results demonstrate that KC responses are subject to non-associative plasticity during odor repetition and undergo associative plasticity after appetitive odor learning.
Keywords: calcium imaging; honeybee; insect; mushroom body; neural plasticity; odor learning.