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Front. Behav. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00279

Learning and its neural correlates in a virtual environment for honeybees

 Hanna Zwaka1, 2*, Ruth Bartels3,  Sophie Lehfeldt3,  Meida Jusyte3, Sören Hantke3, Simon Menzel3,  Jacob Gora4, Rafael Alberdi Vallejo4 and Randolf Menzel3, 5
  • 1Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • 2Harvard University, United States
  • 3Institut für Biologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • 4Fachbereich Mathematik und Informatik, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • 5Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin (NNCN), Germany

The search for neural correlates of operant and observational learning requires a combination of two (experimental) conditions that are very difficult to combine: stable recording from high order neurons and free movement of the animal in a rather natural environment. We developed a virtual environment (VE) that simulates a simplified 3D world for honeybees walking stationary on an air-supported spherical treadmill. We show that honeybees perceive the stimuli in the VE as meaningful by transferring learned information from free flight to the virtual world. In search for neural correlates of learning in the VE, mushroom body extrinsic neurons were recorded over days during learning. We found changes in the neural activity specific to the rewarded and unrewarded visual stimuli. Our results suggest an involvement of the mushroom body extrinsic neurons in operant learning in the honeybee (Apis mellifera).

Keywords: Virtual enviroment (VE), learning and memory, mushroom body, Honey bee, feedback neurons, GABA, Operant learning, mushroom body extrinsic neurons

Received: 29 Jul 2018; Accepted: 30 Oct 2018.

Edited by:

Etsuro Ito, Waseda University, Japan

Reviewed by:

Makoto Mizunami, Hokkaido University, Japan
Hiroyuki Ai, Fukuoka University, Japan  

Copyright: © 2018 Zwaka, Bartels, Lehfeldt, Jusyte, Hantke, Menzel, Gora, Alberdi Vallejo and Menzel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Hanna Zwaka, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany, zwaka@fas.harvard.edu