• cricket;
  • memory formation;
  • neurotransmitter;
  • reinforcement;
  • visual learning


Insects, like vertebrates, have considerable ability to associate visual, olfactory or other sensory signals with reward or punishment. Previous studies in crickets, honey bees and fruit-flies have suggested that octopamine (OA, invertebrate counterpart of noradrenaline) and dopamine (DA) mediate various kinds of reward and punishment signals in olfactory learning. However, whether the roles of OA and DA in mediating positive and negative reinforcing signals can be generalized to learning of sensory signals other than odors remained unknown. Here we first established a visual learning paradigm in which to associate a visual pattern with water reward or saline punishment for crickets and found that memory after aversive conditioning decayed much faster than that after appetitive conditioning. Then, we pharmacologically studied the roles of OA and DA in appetitive and aversive forms of visual learning. Crickets injected with epinastine or mianserin, OA receptor antagonists, into the hemolymph exhibited a complete impairment of appetitive learning to associate a visual pattern with water reward, but aversive learning with saline punishment was unaffected. By contrast, fluphenazine, chlorpromazine or spiperone, DA receptor antagonists, completely impaired aversive learning without affecting appetitive learning. The results demonstrate that OA and DA participate in reward and punishment conditioning in visual learning. This finding, together with results of previous studies on the roles of OA and DA in olfactory learning, suggests ubiquitous roles of the octopaminergic reward system and dopaminergic punishment system in insect learning.