Visual associative learning in wood ants

Fernandes, A Sofia D, Buckley, C L and Niven, Jeremy E. (2017) Visual associative learning in wood ants. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 221 (3). pp. 1-8. ISSN 0022-0949

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Abstract

Wood ants are a model system for studying visual learning and navigation. They can forage for food and navigate to their nests effectively by forming memories of visual features in their surrounding environment. Previous studies of freely behaving ants have revealed many of the behavioural strategies and environmental features necessary for successful navigation. However, little is known about the exact visual properties of the environment that animals learn or the neural mechanisms that allow them to achieve this. As a first step towards addressing this, we developed a classical conditioning paradigm for visual learning in harnessed wood ants that allows us to control precisely the learned visual cues. In this paradigm, ants are fixed and presented with a visual cue paired with an appetitive sugar reward. Using this paradigm, we found that visual cues learnt by wood ants through Pavlovian conditioning are retained for at least one hour. Furthermore, we found that memory retention is dependent upon the ants’ performance during training. Our study provides the first evidence that wood ants can form visual associative memories when restrained. This classical conditioning paradigm has the potential to permit detailed analysis of the dynamics of memory formation and retention, and the neural basis of learning in wood ants.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
School of Life Sciences > Neuroscience
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics
Depositing User: Sofia David Fernandes
Date Deposited: 14 May 2018 12:22
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2018 02:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/75729

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