Experience-dependent tuning of early olfactory processing in the adult honey bee, Apis mellifera

Christopher M. Jernigan, Rachael Halby, Richard C. Gerkin, Irina Sinakevitch, Fernando Locatelli, Brian H. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Experience-dependent plasticity in the central nervous system allows an animal to adapt its responses to stimuli over different time scales. In this study, we explored the impacts of adult foraging experience on early olfactory processing by comparing naturally foraging honey bees, Apis mellifera, with those that experienced a chronic reduction in adult foraging experience. We placed age-matched sets of sister honey bees into two different olfactory conditions, in which animals were allowed to forage ad libitum. In one condition, we restricted foraging experience by placing honey bees in a tent in which both sucrose and pollen resources were associated with a single odor. In the second condition, honey bees were allowed to forage freely and therefore encounter a diversity of naturally occurring resource-associated olfactory experiences. We found that honey bees with restricted foraging experiences had altered antennal lobe development. We measured the glomerular responses to odors using calcium imaging in the antennal lobe, and found that natural olfactory experience also enhanced the inter-individual variation in glomerular response profiles to odors. Additionally, we found that honey bees with adult restricted foraging experience did not distinguish relevant components of an odor mixture in a behavioral assay as did their freely foraging siblings. This study highlights the impacts of individual experience on early olfactory processing at multiple levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb206748
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • Antennal lobe
  • Experience-dependent plasticity
  • Glomeruli
  • Learning
  • Olfactory restriction
  • PER

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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