Dopaminergic neurons write and update memories with cell-type-specific rules

Elife. 2016 Jul 21:5:e16135. doi: 10.7554/eLife.16135.


Associative learning is thought to involve parallel and distributed mechanisms of memory formation and storage. In Drosophila, the mushroom body (MB) is the major site of associative odor memory formation. Previously we described the anatomy of the adult MB and defined 20 types of dopaminergic neurons (DANs) that each innervate distinct MB compartments (Aso et al., 2014a, 2014b). Here we compare the properties of memories formed by optogenetic activation of individual DAN cell types. We found extensive differences in training requirements for memory formation, decay dynamics, storage capacity and flexibility to learn new associations. Even a single DAN cell type can either write or reduce an aversive memory, or write an appetitive memory, depending on when it is activated relative to odor delivery. Our results show that different learning rules are executed in seemingly parallel memory systems, providing multiple distinct circuit-based strategies to predict future events from past experiences.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; associative learning; mushroom body; neuromodulator; neuroscience; olfaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Memory*
  • Mushroom Bodies / physiology*
  • Optogenetics
  • Smell*