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Learning the consequences: state-dependent modulation of spontaneous decisions in flies

Bjoern Brembs

Neurobiology, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Even flies possess the ability to produce spontaneous behavior, given appropriate circumstances. The spontaneous choice behavior of attempting to turn left or right when the flies are tethered in space is altered after operant training. During this training, flies are punished with a heat beam on one choice (e.g., left), but not on the other (e.g., right). If there are predictive colors present during training such that one color is always associated with one turning direction, the spontaneous choice behavior without colors shows no signs of training-dependent modulation after training of normal duration, but only after extended training. This state-dependent interaction between the color-learning system (i.e., classical learning) and the operant learning system is mediated by the mushroom bodies. Classical and operant learning systems require different molecular components. The state-dependent interaction between operant and classical learning systems enables generalization of the classical memory and prevents premature habit formation.