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Keywords:

  • brain lesion;
  • cognition;
  • honeybee;
  • hydroxyurea;
  • mushroom bodies;
  • olfactory learning

Abstract

The mushroom bodies (MBs) are central structures in the insect brain that have been associated with olfactory learning and memory. Here we used hydroxyurea (HU) to treat honeybee larvae and induce partial MB ablations at the adult stage. We studied olfactory learning in honeybees with unilateral loss of the median calyces of their MBs and compared their ability to solve different forms of olfactory discrimination. When odorants were delivered in a side-specific manner, ablated bees could not solve either discrimination of the unambiguous problem (Paradigm 1: A+, B– on one antenna, C+, D– on the other; A+B–/C+D–) whereas they could solve at least one of both discriminations of the ambiguous problem (Paradigm 2: A+B–/A–B+), namely that proposed to their intact brain side. Non-ablated bees could learn side-specific discriminations on both brain sides. When odorants were delivered simultaneously to both antennae (Paradigm 3: A+B–C+D–), HU-ablated bees learned slower than HU-normal bees. Thus, in all three paradigms, the unilateral loss of a median calyx affected olfactory learning. We propose that the MBs are required for solving elemental olfactory tasks whose complexity is increased by the number of stimuli involved and that MB ablations could have an effect on the inhibition of information exchange between brain hemispheres.