Olfactory learning in Drosophila

Physiology (Bethesda). 2010 Dec;25(6):338-46. doi: 10.1152/physiol.00026.2010.


Studies of olfactory learning in Drosophila have provided key insights into the brain mechanisms underlying learning and memory. One type of olfactory learning, olfactory classical conditioning, consists of learning the contingency between an odor with an aversive or appetitive stimulus. This conditioning requires the activity of molecules that can integrate the two types of sensory information, the odorant as the conditioned stimulus and the aversive or appetitive stimulus as the unconditioned stimulus, in brain regions where the neural pathways for the two stimuli intersect. Compelling data indicate that a particular form of adenylyl cyclase functions as a molecular integrator of the sensory information in the mushroom body neurons. The neuronal pathway carrying the olfactory information from the antennal lobes to the mushroom body is well described. Accumulating data now show that some dopaminergic neurons provide information about aversive stimuli and octopaminergic neurons about appetitive stimuli to the mushroom body neurons. Inhibitory inputs from the GABAergic system appear to gate olfactory information to the mushroom bodies and thus control the ability to learn about odors. Emerging data obtained by functional imaging procedures indicate that distinct memory traces form in different brain regions and correlate with different phases of memory. The results from these and other experiments also indicate that cross talk between mushroom bodies and several other brain regions is critical for memory formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Learning*
  • Memory
  • Mushroom Bodies / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / metabolism
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Smell*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • Rut protein, Drosophila
  • Dopamine