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Keywords:

  • learning and memory;
  • insect;
  • brain;
  • neuroanatomy;
  • evolution

Abstract

The mushroom bodies are paired structures in the insect brain involved in complex functions such as memory formation, sensory integration, and context recognition. In many insects these centers are elaborate, sometimes comprising several hundred thousand neurons. The present account describes the mushroom bodies of Spodoptera littoralis, a moth extensively used for studies of olfactory processing and conditioning. The mushroom bodies of Spodoptera consist of only about 4,000 large-diameter Kenyon cells. However, these neurons are recognizably similar to morphological classes of Kenyon cells identified in honey bees, Drosophila, and cockroaches. The spodopteran mushroom body is equipped with three major divisions of its vertical and medial lobe, one of which, the gamma lobe, is supplied by clawed class II Kenyon cells as in other described taxa. Of special interest is the presence of a discrete tract (the Y tract) of axons leading from the calyx, separate from the pedunculus, that innervates lobelets above and beneath the medial lobe, close to the latter's origin from the pedunculus. This tract is comparable to tracts and resultant lobelets identified in cockroaches and termites. The article discusses possible functional roles of the spodopteran mushroom body against the background of olfactory behaviors described from this taxon and discusses the possible functional relevance of mushroom body structure, emphasizing similarities and dissimilarities with mushroom bodies of other species, in particular the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. J. Comp. Neurol. 491:290–304, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.