A new paradigm for operant conditioning of Drosophila melanogaster

J Comp Physiol A. 1996 Sep;179(3):429-36. doi: 10.1007/BF00194996.


A freely walking single fly (Drosophila melanogaster) can be conditioned to avoid one side of a small test chamber if the chamber is heated whenever the fly enters this side. In a subsequent memory test without heat it keeps avoiding the heat-associated side. The memory mutants dunce and rutabaga successfully avoid the heated side but show no avoidance in the memory test. Wildtype flies can be trained to successively avoid alternating sides in a reversal conditioning experiment. Every single fly shows strong avoidance and a positive memory score. The new conditioning apparatus has several advantages: (1) Statistically significant learning scores can be obtained for individual flies. (2) Learning scores are obtained fully automatically without interference of the experimenter. (3) The procedure is fast, robust and requires little handling. Therefore the apparatus is suitable for largescale mutant screening. (4) Animals are not attached to a hook and thus can easily be used for breeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Drosophila
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Physiology / methods*
  • Time Factors