Enriched environmental conditions induce neuroanatomical plasticity in a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate species. We explored the molecular processes associated with experience-induced plasticity, using naturally occurring foraging behavior in adult worker honey bees (Apis mellifera). In honey bees, the mushroom bodies exhibit neuroanatomical plasticity that is dependent on accumulated foraging experience. To investigate molecular processes associated with foraging experience, we performed a time-course microarray study to examine gene expression changes in the mushroom bodies as a function of days foraged. We found almost 500 genes that were regulated by duration of foraging experience. Bioinformatic analyses of these genes suggest that foraging experience is associated with multiple molecular processes in the mushroom bodies, including some that may contribute directly to neuropil growth, and others that could potentially protect the brain from the effects of aging and physiological stress.
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