A possible structural correlate of learning performance on a colour discrimination task in the brain of the bumblebee.
Proc Biol Sci
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Synaptic plasticity is considered to be a basis for learning and memory. However, the relationship between synaptic arrangements and individual differences in learning and memory is poorly understood. Here, we explored how the density of microglomeruli (synaptic complexes) within specific regions of the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) brain relates to both visual learning and inter-individual differences in learning and memory performance on a visual discrimination task. Using whole-brain immunolabelling, we measured the density of microglomeruli in the collar region (visual association areas) of the mushroom bodies of the bumblebee brain. We found that bumblebees which made fewer errors during training in a visual discrimination task had higher microglomerular density. Similarly, bumblebees that had better retention of the learned colour-reward associations two days after training had higher microglomerular density. Further experiments indicated experience-dependent changes in neural circuitry: learning a colour-reward contingency with 10 colours (but not two colours) does result, and exposure to many different colours may result, in changes to microglomerular density in the collar region of the mushroom bodies. These results reveal the varying roles that visual experience, visual learning and foraging activity have on neural structure. Although our study does not provide a causal link between microglomerular density and performance, the observed positive correlations provide new insights for future studies into how neural structure may relate to inter-individual differences in learning and memory.
AuthorsLi, L; MaBouDi, H; Egertová, M; Elphick, MR; Chittka, L; Perry, CJ
- College Publications