Nervous systems have evolved to translate external stimuli into appropriate behavioral responses. In an ever-changing environment, flexible adjustment of behavioral choice by experience-dependent learning is essential for the animal's survival. Associative learning is a simple form of learning that is widely observed from worms to humans. To understand the whole process of learning, we need to know how sensory information is represented and transformed in the brain, how it is changed by experience, and how the changes are reflected on motor output. To tackle these questions, studying numerically simple invertebrate nervous systems has a great advantage. In this review, I will feature the Pavlovian olfactory learning in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. The mushroom body is a key brain area for the olfactory learning in this organism. Recently, comprehensive anatomical information and the genetic tool sets were made available for the mushroom body circuit. This greatly accelerated the physiological understanding of the learning process. One of the key findings was dopamine-induced long-term synaptic plasticity that can alter the representations of stimulus valence. I will mostly focus on the new studies within these few years and discuss what we can possibly learn about the vertebrate systems from this model organism.
Keywords: Associative learning; Drosophila; Mushroom body; Olfaction; Synaptic plasticity.
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