Early olfactory experience modifies neural activity in the antennal lobe of a social insect at the adult stage

Authors

  • A. Arenas,

    1. Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental, Grupo de Estudio de Insectos Sociales, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria (C1428EHA), Buenos Aires, Argentina
    2. IFIBYNE, CONICET, Grupo de Estudio de Insectos Sociales, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria (C1428EHA), Buenos Aires, Argentina
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  • M. Giurfa,

    1. Université de Toulouse, UPS, Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse Cedex 9, France
    2. CNRS, Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse Cedex 9, France
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  • W. M. Farina,

    1. Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental, Grupo de Estudio de Insectos Sociales, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria (C1428EHA), Buenos Aires, Argentina
    2. IFIBYNE, CONICET, Grupo de Estudio de Insectos Sociales, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria (C1428EHA), Buenos Aires, Argentina
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  • J. C. Sandoz

    1. Université de Toulouse, UPS, Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse Cedex 9, France
    2. CNRS, Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, 118 route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse Cedex 9, France
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Dr W. M. Farina, 1Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología or 2IFIBYNE, CONICET, as above.
E-mail: walter@fbmc.fcen.uba.ar

Abstract

In the antennal lobe (AL), the first olfactory centre of the insect brain, odorants are represented as spatiotemporal patterns of glomerular activity. Whether and how such patterns are modified in the long term after precocious olfactory experiences (i.e. in the first days of adulthood) remains unknown. To address this question, we used in vivo optical imaging of calcium activity in the antennal lobe of 17-day-old honeybees which either experienced an odorant associated with sucrose solution 5–8 days after emergence or were left untreated. In both cases, we imaged neural responses to the learned odor and to three novel odors varying in functional group and carbon-chain length. Two different odor concentrations were used. We also measured behavioral responses of 17-day-old honeybees, treated and untreated, to these stimuli. We show that precocious olfactory experience increased general odor-induced activity and the number of activated glomeruli in the adult AL, but also affected qualitative odor representations, which appeared shifted in the neural space of treated animals relative to control animals. Such effects were not limited to the experienced odor, but were generalized to other perceptually similar odors. A similar trend was found in behavioral experiments, in which increased responses to the learned odor extended to perceptually similar odors in treated bees. Our results show that early olfactory experiences have long-lasting effects, reflected in behavioral responses to odorants and concomitant neural activity in the adult olfactory system.

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