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Anatomy of the Neuropeptide F pathway and its role in larval learning

Research field: Neuronal Networks

Astrid Rohwedder, Andreas Thum

Similar to humans Drosophila larvae and flies use past experience to predict the future, be it the consequence of an animal’s own actions or upcoming external events. These predictions then can contribute to the selection of behaviour which is in addition under motivational control. The mechanisms of motivational control have been widely studied; however the molecular and neuronal basics remain rather unknown. Drosophila larvae are an ideal model to investigate this issue as well-established learning paradigms exist. The standard paradigm uses learned representations of olfactory cues associated with food in larvae and flies. Activation of neuropeptide F (NPF) was shown to mimic food deprivation and promotes memory performance in satiated flies. As larvae are constant feeders and therefore differ in their naïve food-seeking behaviour to flies we investigated the action of NPF in larval associative olfactory learning by spatio-temporal decrease and increase of the NPF neuronal signalling. In contrast to adult behaviour larval olfactory learning performance decreased with NPF neuron activity, suggesting a different function of NPF in the larval brain when compared to the function in its adult counterpart. Additionally our results show that the NPF neuronal activity impairs larval olfactory learning only in acquisition phased during training, but is ineffective during the test situation.


funding by: SNF
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Anatomy and function of NPF in appetitive olfactory learning in Drosophila. On the bottom the detailed anatomy of the NPF system is given for the CNS. About six NPF positive neurons are labled in green by an anti-GFP staining of NPF-GAL4;UAS-GFP experimental larvae. The activation of NPF positive neurons during training and test inhibits larvae from associating sugar and odor information. This effect was confined to the training phase (shown in the upper panels).


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Our shared enthusiasm drives us to unravel bolts and nuts for a better understanding of animal behavior. Many of our projects focus on neuronal mechanisms related to odor reception and odor information processing. We study neuronal networks with molecular tools, physiological measurements and behavioral experiments using free-moving animals.

All of our study organisms are insects because we strongly believe that insects offer great advantages for basic research, thereby providing significant contributions to the wide field of biological science. We work on the model organism Drosophila, and use the plethora of molecular tools to study the brain, both in larvae and adults. We investigate odor discrimination and learning in honeybees with behavioral experiments and functional imaging of brain activity; and we study several other social insect species (ants and bumblebees) aiming to close the gap between differences in neuronal representations and inter-individual variability in behavior. Inter-individual variability is an important feature of social insect colonies, promoting social decision-making and collective behavior.

The diversity of our projects reflects our belief that only a truly integrative research approach will lead to a profound understanding of brain functions, as well as of the proximate and ultimate causation of animal behavior.

For further information on specific projects, please select one of the research fields on the left.

 

 

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