Olfactory conditioning in the honey bee, Apis mellifera: Effects of odor intensity

Seetha Bhagavan, Brian H. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Any odor-guided behavior might require generalization and/or discrimination over a wide range of odorant intensities. Proboscis extension conditioning (PEC) and electroantennogram (EAG) assays were used to investigate stimulus-intensity dynamics during olfactory processing in the honey bee. Experiments that tested generalization involved conditioning to one odorant concentration and either testing with a different odorant or with different concentrations of the same odorant. At low training concentrations, responses to either a novel odorant or to higher concentrations of the same odorant resulted in strong generalization. At higher training concentrations, significantly less generalization was observed to a novel odorant or to lower concentrations of the same odor. EAG analyses indicate that asymmetric generalization could arise due to long-term adaptation of peripheral receptor neurons. Discrimination experiments showed that relatively higher odorant concentrations associated with an appetitive reinforcer could usually be discriminated from a lower concentration that was associated with punishment, but not vice versa. Although sensory modulation in peripheral (sensory) processes might be sufficient to account for discrimination of a high from a low concentration, discrimination of low from high concentrations point to the involvement of central processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-117
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Discrimination
  • Electroantennogram
  • Honey bee
  • Olfaction
  • Proboscis extension conditioning
  • Sensory adaptation
  • Stimulus generalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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