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Elemental and non-elemental olfactory learning in Drosophila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-352
Number of pages14
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Volume96
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Abstract

Brain complexity varies across many orders of magnitude between animals, and it is often assumed that complexity underpins cognition. It is thus important to explore the cognitive capacity of widely used model organisms such as Drosophila. We systematically investigated the fly’s ability to learn discriminations involving compound olfactory stimuli associated with shock. Flies could distinguish binary mixtures (AB+ CD-), including overlapping mixtures (AB+ BC-). They could learn positive patterning (AB+ A- B-) but could not learn negative patterning (A+ B+ AB-) or solve a biconditional discrimination task (AB+ CD+ AC- BD-). Learning about the elements of a compound (AB+) was not affected by prior conditioning of one of the elements (A+ AB+): flies do not exhibit blocking in this task. We compare these results with the predictions from simulation of several well-known theoretical models of learning, and find none are fully consistent with the overall pattern of observed behaviour.

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