Distributed plasticity in ant visual pathways following colour learning.
ABSTRACT: Colour processing at early stages of visual pathways is a topic of intensive study both in vertebrate and invertebrate species. However, it is still unclear how colour learning and memory formation affects an insect brain in the peripheral processing stages and high-order integration centres, and whether associative colour experiences are reflected in plasticity of underlying neuronal circuits. To address this issue, we used Camponotus blandus ants as their proven colour learning and memory capabilities, precisely controllable age and experience, and already known central visual pathways offer unique access to analyse plasticity in neuronal circuits for colour vision in a miniature brain. The potential involvement of distinct neuropils-optic lobes (OLs), mushroom body (MB) input (collar) and output (vertical lobe), anterior optic tubercle (AOTU) and central complex (CX)-in associative colour experiences was assessed by quantification of volumetric and synaptic changes (MB collar) directly after colour conditioning and, 3 days later, after the establishment of long-term memory (LTM). To account for potential effects of non-associative light exposure, we compared neuronal changes in the brain of colour-naive foragers with those of foragers that had been exposed to light in a non-associative way. The results clearly show that the OLs, AOTU, and CX respond with plastic changes after colour learning and LTM formation. This suggests a complex neuronal network for colour learning and memory formation involving multiple brain levels. Such a colour-processing network probably represents an efficient design promoting fast and accurate behavioural decisions during orientation and navigation.
Project description:Because of the relative simplicity of its nervous system, Caenorhabditis elegans is a useful model organism to study learning and memory at cellular and molecular levels. For appetitive conditioning in C. elegans, food has exclusively been used as an unconditioned stimulus (US). It may be difficult to analyze neuronal circuits for associative memory since food is a multimodal combination of olfactory, gustatory, and mechanical stimuli. Here, we report classical appetitive conditioning and associative memory in C. elegans, using 1-nonanol as a conditioned stimulus (CS), and potassium chloride (KCl) as a US. Before conditioning, C. elegans innately avoided 1-nonanol, an aversive olfactory stimulus, and was attracted by KCl, an appetitive gustatory stimulus, on assay agar plates. Both massed training without an intertrial interval (ITI) and spaced training with a 10-min ITI induced significant levels of memory of association regarding the two chemicals. Memory induced by massed training decayed within 6 h, while that induced by spaced training was retained for more than 6 h. Animals treated with inhibitors of transcription or translation formed the memory induced by spaced training less efficiently than untreated animals, whereas the memory induced by massed training was not significantly affected by such treatments. By definition, therefore, memories induced by massed training and spaced training are classified as short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM), respectively. When animals conditioned by spaced training were exposed to 1-nonanol alone, their learning index was lower than that of untreated animals, suggesting that extinction learning occurs in C. elegans. In support of these results, C. elegans mutants defective in nmr-1, encoding an NMDA receptor subunit, formed both STM and LTM less efficiently than wild-type animals, while mutations in crh-1, encoding a ubiquitous transcription factor CREB required for memory consolidation, affected LTM, but not STM. The paradigm established in the present study should allow us to elucidate neuronal circuit plasticity for appetitive learning and memory in C. elegans.
Project description:MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important epigenetic regulators of mRNA translation implicated in long-lasting synaptic plasticity and long-term memory (LTM). Since recent findings demonstrated a role of epigenetic regulation of gene expression in early memory phases we investigated whether epigenetic regulation by miRNAs also contributes to early memory phases. We used the olfactory associative learning paradigm in honeybees and addressed the contribution of miRNAs depending on the conditioning strength. We selected miR-12, miR-124, and miR-125 that have been implicated in processes of neuronal plasticity and analysed their contribution to non-associative and associative learning using miRNA inhibitors. Blocking miR-12, miR-124, or miR125 neither affects gustatory sensitivity nor habituation nor sensitization. Blocking the function of miR-12 and miR-124 during and shortly after 3-trial conditioning impairs different early memory phases. Although different, the function of miR-12 and miR-124 is also required for early phases of transient memory that is induced by 1-trial conditioning. Blocking miR-125 has no effect on early memory independent of the conditioning strength. These findings demonstrate that distinct miRNAs contribute to early phases of both, transient memories as well as long-lasting memories.
Project description:Calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinases (CaM-kinases) are central to various forms of long-term memory (LTM) in a number of evolutionarily diverse organisms. However, it is still largely unknown what contributions specific CaM-kinases make to different phases of the same specific type of memory, such as acquisition, or early, intermediate, and late consolidation of associative LTM after classical conditioning. Here, we investigated the involvement of CaM-kinase II (CaMKII) in different phases of associative LTM induced by single-trial reward classical conditioning in Lymnaea, a well established invertebrate experimental system for studying molecular mechanisms of learning and memory. First, by using a general CaM-kinase inhibitor, KN-62, we found that CaM-kinase activation was necessary for acquisition and late consolidation, but not early or intermediate consolidation or retrieval of LTM. Then, we used Western blot-based phosphorylation assays and treatment with CaMKIINtide to identify CaMKII as the main CaM-kinase, the intrinsic activation of which, in a critical time window ( approximately 24 h after learning), is central to late consolidation of LTM. Additionally, using MK-801 and CaMKIINtide we found that acquisition was dependent on both NMDA receptor and CaMKII activation. However, unlike acquisition, CaMKII-dependent late memory consolidation does not require the activation of NMDA receptors. Our new findings support the notion that even apparently stable memory traces may undergo further molecular changes and identify NMDA-independent intrinsic activation of CaMKII as a mechanism underlying this "lingering consolidation." This process may facilitate the preservation of LTM in the face of protein turnover or active molecular processes that underlie forgetting.
Project description:The induction, formation and maintenance of memory represent dynamic processes modulated by multiple factors including the circadian clock and sleep. Chronic sleep restriction has become common in modern society due to occupational and social demands. Given the impact of cognitive impairments associated with sleep deprivation, there is a vital need for a simple animal model in which to study the interactions between chronic sleep deprivation and memory. We used the marine mollusk Aplysia californica, with its simple nervous system, nocturnal sleep pattern and well-characterized learning paradigms, to assess the effects of two chronic sleep restriction paradigms on short-term (STM) and long-term (LTM) associative memory. The effects of sleep deprivation on memory were evaluated using the operant learning paradigm, learning that food is inedible, in which the animal associates a specific netted seaweed with failed swallowing attempts. We found that two nights of 6h sleep deprivation occurring during the first or last half of the night inhibited both STM and LTM. Moreover, the impairment in STM persisted for more than 24h. A milder, prolonged sleep deprivation paradigm consisting of 3 consecutive nights of 4h sleep deprivation also blocked STM, but had no effect on LTM. These experiments highlight differences in the sensitivity of STM and LTM to chronic sleep deprivation. Moreover, these results establish Aplysia as a valid model for studying the interactions between chronic sleep deprivation and associative memory paving the way for future studies delineating the mechanisms through which sleep restriction affects memory formation.
Project description:NMDA receptor (NMDAR) channels allow Ca(2+) influx only during correlated activation of both pre- and postsynaptic cells; a Mg(2+) block mechanism suppresses NMDAR activity when the postsynaptic cell is inactive. Although the importance of NMDARs in associative learning and long-term memory (LTM) formation has been demonstrated, the role of Mg(2+) block in these processes remains unclear. Using transgenic flies expressing NMDARs defective for Mg(2+) block, we found that Mg(2+) block mutants are defective for LTM formation but not associative learning. We demonstrate that LTM-dependent increases in expression of synaptic genes, including homer, staufen, and activin, are abolished in flies expressing Mg(2+) block defective NMDARs. Furthermore, we show that genetic and pharmacological reduction of Mg(2+) block significantly increases expression of a CREB repressor isoform. Our results suggest that Mg(2+) block of NMDARs functions to suppress basal expression of a CREB repressor, thus permitting CREB-dependent gene expression upon LTM induction.
Project description:The activity of the epigenetic writers DNA methyltransferases (Dnmts) after olfactory reward conditioning is important for both stimulus-specific long-term memory (LTM) formation and extinction. It, however, remains unknown which components of memory formation Dnmts regulate (e.g., associative vs. non-associative) and in what context (e.g., varying training conditions). Here, we address these aspects in order to clarify the role of Dnmt-mediated DNA methylation in memory formation. We used a pharmacological Dnmt inhibitor and classical appetitive conditioning in the honeybee Apis mellifera, a well characterized model for classical conditioning. We quantified the effect of DNA methylation on naïve odor and sugar responses, and on responses following olfactory reward conditioning. We show that (1) Dnmts do not influence naïve odor or sugar responses, (2) Dnmts do not affect the learning of new stimuli, but (3) Dnmts influence odor-coding, i.e., 'correct' (stimulus-specific) LTM formation. Particularly, Dnmts reduce memory specificity when experience is low (one-trial training), and increase memory specificity when experience is high (multiple-trial training), generating an ecologically more useful response to learning. (4) In reversal learning conditions, Dnmts are involved in regulating both excitatory (re-acquisition) and inhibitory (forgetting) processes.
Project description:Mushroom bodies (MBs) are multisensory integration centers in the insect brain involved in learning and memory formation. In the honeybee, the main sensory input region (calyx) of MBs is comparatively large and receives input from mainly olfactory and visual senses, but also from gustatory/tactile modalities. Behavioral plasticity following differential brood care, changes in sensory exposure or the formation of associative long-term memory (LTM) was shown to be associated with structural plasticity in synaptic microcircuits (microglomeruli) within olfactory and visual compartments of the MB calyx. In the same line, physiological studies have demonstrated that MB-calyx microcircuits change response properties after associative learning. The aim of this review is to provide an update and synthesis of recent research on the plasticity of microcircuits in the MB calyx of the honeybee, specifically looking at the synaptic connectivity between sensory projection neurons (PNs) and MB intrinsic neurons (Kenyon cells). We focus on the honeybee as a favorable experimental insect for studying neuronal mechanisms underlying complex social behavior, but also compare it with other insect species for certain aspects. This review concludes by highlighting open questions and promising routes for future research aimed at understanding the causal relationships between neuronal and behavioral plasticity in this charismatic social insect.
Project description:The cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) is known to play a critical role in both transcription-independent short-term or intermediate-term memory and transcription-dependent long-term memory (LTM). Although distinct phases of LTM already have been demonstrated in some systems, it is not known whether these phases require distinct temporal patterns of learning-induced PKA activation. This question was addressed in a robust form of associative LTM that emerges within a matter of hours after single-trial food-reward classical conditioning in the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. After establishing the molecular and functional identity of the PKA catalytic subunit in the Lymnaea nervous system, we used a combination of PKA activity measurement and inhibition techniques to investigate its role in LTM in intact animals. PKA activity in ganglia involved in single-trial learning showed a short latency but prolonged increase after classical conditioning. However, while increased PKA activity immediately after training (0-10 min) was essential for an early phase of LTM (6 h), the late phase of LTM (24 h) required a prolonged increase in PKA activity. These observations indicate mechanistically different roles for PKA in recent and more remote phases of LTM, which may underpin different cellular and molecular mechanisms required for these phases.
Project description:Associative learning is key to how bees recognize and return to rewarding floral resources. It thus plays a major role in pollinator floral constancy and plant gene flow. Honeybees are the primary model for pollinator associative learning, but bumblebees play an important ecological role in a wider range of habitats, and their associative learning abilities are less well understood. We assayed learning with the proboscis extension reflex (PER), using a novel method for restraining bees (capsules) designed to improve bumblebee learning. We present the first results demonstrating that bumblebees exhibit the memory spacing effect. They improve their associative learning of odor and nectar reward by exhibiting increased memory acquisition, a component of long-term memory formation, when the time interval between rewarding trials is increased. Bombus impatiens forager memory acquisition (average discrimination index values) improved by 129% and 65% at inter-trial intervals (ITI) of 5 and 3 min, respectively, as compared to an ITI of 1 min. Memory acquisition rate also increased with increasing ITI. Encapsulation significantly increases olfactory memory acquisition. Ten times more foragers exhibited at least one PER response during training in capsules as compared to traditional PER harnesses. Thus, a novel conditioning assay, encapsulation, enabled us to improve bumblebee-learning acquisition and demonstrate that spaced learning results in better memory consolidation. Such spaced learning likely plays a role in forming long-term memories of rewarding floral resources.
Project description:An increasing body of evidence suggests that mechanisms related to the introduction and repair of DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) may be associated with long-term memory (LTM) processes. Previous studies from our group suggested that factors known to function in DNA recombination/repair machineries, such as DNA ligases, polymerases, and DNA endonucleases, play a role in LTM. Here we report data using C57BL/6 mice showing that the V(D)J recombination-activating gene 1 (RAG1), which encodes a factor that introduces DSBs in immunoglobulin and T-cell receptor genes, is induced in the amygdala, but not in the hippocampus, after context fear conditioning. Amygdalar induction of RAG1 mRNA, measured by real-time PCR, was not observed in context-only or shock-only controls, suggesting that the context fear conditioning response is related to associative learning processes. Furthermore, double immunofluorescence studies demonstrated the neuronal localization of RAG1 protein in amygdalar sections prepared after perfusion and fixation. In functional studies, intra-amygdalar injections of RAG1 gapmer antisense oligonucleotides, given 1?h prior to conditioning, resulted in amygdalar knockdown of RAG1 mRNA and a significant impairment in LTM, tested 24?h after training. Overall, these findings suggest that the V(D)J recombination-activating gene 1, RAG1, may play a role in LTM consolidation.