Event Abstract

A behavioural odour-similarity “space” in larval Drosophila

  • 1 University of Würzburg, Department of Neurobiology and Genetics, Germany
  • 2 Freie Universität Berlin, Department for Biology, Pharmacy and Chemistry, Germany
  • 3 University of Leipzig, Department of Genetics, Germany

Introduction, aims, and methods: To provide a behaviour-based estimate of odour similarity in larval Drosophila, we use four recognition-type experiments: (i) We train larvae to associate an odour with food, and then test whether they would regard another odour as the same as the trained one. (ii) We train larvae to associate an odour with food, and test whether they prefer the trained odour against a novel, non-trained one. (iii) We train larvae differentially to associate one odour with food, but not the other one, and test whether they prefer the rewarded against the non-rewarded odour. (iv) In an experiment like (iii), we test the larvae after a 30min-break. This yields a combined, task-independent estimate of perceived difference between odour-pairs.
Results: Comparing these perceived differences to published measures of physico-chemical difference reveals a weak correlation. A notable exception are 3-octanol and benzaldehyde, which are distinct in published accounts of chemical similarity, and in terms of their published sensory representation, but nevertheless are consistently regarded as the most similar of the ten odour pairs employed.
Conclusions: It thus appears as if at least some aspects of olfactory perception are 'computed' in post-receptor circuits on the basis of sensory signals, rather than being immediately given by them.


Supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (IRTG 1156 Synaptic and behavioural plasticity, SPP 1392 Integrative analyses of olfaction) and the German Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (BMBF) (Bernstein Focus Insect-inspired robotics). BG is a Heisenberg Fellow of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Thanks to K. Tschirner and K. Gerber for help with the experiments, and to M. Heisenberg, E. Buchner, B. Michels, A. Yarali, and T. Saumweber for discussion and support.

Keywords: Learning, Olfaction, Perception, Sensory Physiology, Similarity

Conference: Human Chemosensation 2010, Dresden, Germany, 2 Dec - 4 Dec, 2010.

Presentation Type: Presentation

Topic: Human Chemosensation 2010

Citation: Chen Y, Mishra D, Schmitt L, Schmuker M and Gerber B (2011). A behavioural odour-similarity “space” in larval Drosophila. Front. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: Human Chemosensation 2010. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnins.2011.85.00006

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Received: 26 Jan 2011; Published Online: 03 May 2011.

* Correspondence: Prof. Bertram Gerber, University of Leipzig, Department of Genetics, 04103 Leipzig, Germany, bertram.gerber@lin-magdeburg.de