Appetitive associative olfactory learning in Drosophila larvae

J Vis Exp. 2013 Feb 18;(72):4334. doi: 10.3791/4334.

Abstract

In the following we describe the methodological details of appetitive associative olfactory learning in Drosophila larvae. The setup, in combination with genetic interference, provides a handle to analyze the neuronal and molecular fundamentals of specifically associative learning in a simple larval brain. Organisms can use past experience to adjust present behavior. Such acquisition of behavioral potential can be defined as learning, and the physical bases of these potentials as memory traces. Neuroscientists try to understand how these processes are organized in terms of molecular and neuronal changes in the brain by using a variety of methods in model organisms ranging from insects to vertebrates. For such endeavors it is helpful to use model systems that are simple and experimentally accessible. The Drosophila larva has turned out to satisfy these demands based on the availability of robust behavioral assays, the existence of a variety of transgenic techniques and the elementary organization of the nervous system comprising only about 10,000 neurons (albeit with some concessions: cognitive limitations, few behavioral options, and richness of experience questionable). Drosophila larvae can form associations between odors and appetitive gustatory reinforcement like sugar. In a standard assay, established in the lab of B. Gerber, animals receive a two-odor reciprocal training: A first group of larvae is exposed to an odor A together with a gustatory reinforcer (sugar reward) and is subsequently exposed to an odor B without reinforcement. Meanwhile a second group of larvae receives reciprocal training while experiencing odor A without reinforcement and subsequently being exposed to odor B with reinforcement (sugar reward). In the following both groups are tested for their preference between the two odors. Relatively higher preferences for the rewarded odor reflect associative learning--presented as a performance index (PI). The conclusion regarding the associative nature of the performance index is compelling, because apart from the contingency between odors and tastants, other parameters, such as odor and reward exposure, passage of time and handling do not differ between the two groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Larva
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Taste