Color Learning And Brain Metabolic Activity In Novomessor Cockerelli
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
AbstractInsects use associative learning to navigate the world around them. Visual learning has been studied extensively in bees, but less is known about the abilities of ants. By allowing ants to explore a bifurcated maze illuminated with colored LEDs, we determine individual innate color preferences. Based on these preference results, ants are conditioned to reverse these biases via a quinine (punishment) vs. sucrose (reward) paradigm. Learning is evaluated based on their first navigational choice and distribution of time spent in the maze areas. Results show that most ants have innate preferences. Collectively, the tested colony has significant biases toward UV light and the right half of the maze. The conditioning paradigm demonstrates success, as test ants make more correct decisions toward the rewarded color and spend less time in the punished color than controls. However, individual learning is variable. Potential underlying brain differences are investigated via cytochrome oxidase staining of cryosectioned brain tissue. Ants deemed “learners” have significantly higher levels of cytochrome oxidase in their antennal and mushroom body lobes than “non-learners.” While a directional causality between brain metabolism and behavior is unknown, the data reveals a significant correlation between them. Funding: the University Provost and NSCS Research Award.