Olfactory experience shapes the evaluation of odour similarity in ants - a behavioural and computational analysis

Perez, Margot, Nowotny, Thomas, d'Ettore, Patrizia and Giurfa, Martin (2016) Olfactory experience shapes the evaluation of odour similarity in ants - a behavioural and computational analysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283 (1837). p. 20160551. ISSN 0962-8452

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Perceptual similarity between stimuli is often assessed via generalisation, the response to stimuli that are similar to the one which was previously conditioned. Although conditioning procedures are variable, studies on how this variation may affect perceptual similarity remain scarce. Here, we use a combination of behavioural and computational analyses to investigate the influence of olfactory conditioning procedures on odour generalisation in ants. Insects were trained following either absolute conditioning, in which a single odour (an aldehyde) was rewarded with sucrose, or differential conditioning, in which one odour (the same aldehyde) was similarly rewarded and another odour (an aldehyde differing in carbon-chain length) was punished with quinine. The response to the trained odours and generalisation to other aldehydes were assessed. We show that olfactory similarity, rather than being immutable, varies with the conditioning procedure. Compared to absolute conditioning, differential conditioning enhances olfactory discrimination. This improvement is best described by a multiplicative interaction between two independent processes, the excitatory and inhibitory generalisation gradients induced by the rewarded and the punished odour, respectively. We show that olfactory similarity is dramatically shaped by an individual’s perceptual experience and suggest a new hypothesis for the nature of stimulus interactions underlying experience-dependent changes in perceptual similarity.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Depositing User: Thomas Nowotny
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2016 06:59
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 17:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/62380

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