Revisiting olfactory classical conditioning of the proboscis extension response in honey bees: a step toward standardized procedures

J Neurosci Methods. 2012 Oct 15;211(1):159-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2012.08.018. Epub 2012 Aug 31.


The honey bee Apis mellifera has emerged as a robust and influential model for the study of classical conditioning thanks to the existence of a powerful Pavlovian conditioning protocol, the olfactory conditioning of the proboscis extension response (PER). In 2011, the olfactory PER conditioning protocol celebrated its 50 years since it was first introduced by Kimihisa Takeda in 1961. In this protocol, individually harnessed honey bees are trained to associate an odor with sucrose solution. The resulting olfactory learning is fast and induces robust olfactory memories that have been characterized at the behavioral, neuronal and molecular levels. Despite the success of this protocol for studying the bases of learning and memory at these different levels, innumerable procedural variants have arisen throughout the years, which render comparative analyses of behavioral performances difficult. Moreover, because even slight variations in conditioning procedures may introduce significant differences in acquisition and retention performances, we revisit olfactory PER conditioning and define here a standardized framework for experiments using this behavioral protocol. To this end, we present and discuss all the methodological steps and details necessary for successful implementation of olfactory PER conditioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropod Antennae / physiology
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Memory / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Psychology, Experimental / methods*
  • Sense Organs / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Sucrose


  • Sucrose